From failure to success: How the Houthis saved the Arab Spring

Published on 18 February 2015 in Opinion
Hussain Al-Bukhaiti (author)

Hussain Al-Bukhaiti


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When a revolution was sparked in Tunisia in late 2010, the Arab world waited to see who would be next. Arabs were ruled by tyrants and kings. The deeply human desire to be free proved too powerful for many of the region’s dictators, and one-by-one, many fell.

As they fell, other leaders took note. As far as China, government fear of the people’s power was evident. Saudi Arabia increased subsides, Morocco and Jordan removed some especially unpopular officials, and China reigned in some of its party’s excesses.

But then chaos came, spreading over the region like a dark cloud, as terrorists made territorial gains in various Arab Spring countries. The spirit of change gave way to a failed Spring.

Ansar Allah joined the 2011 revolution in Yemen and like the independent youth, refused to back the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative that laid out a roadmap which handed power back to the former regime and granted immunity to President Saleh. But calls for a new Yemen, separate from the one envisioned by the GCC and international community, continued.

On Sept. 21, 2014, those demands were met when a new revolution led by Ansar Allah opened a third way.

Before the Arab Spring, the government fought six wars against Ansar Allah, starting in 2004 in the north of Yemen. It started when Hussain Al-Houthi denounced Yemen’s foreign policy with his anti-American slogan, “Death to America.”

Yemeni tribes and the Yemeni army, led by General Ali Mohsen, sought to crush Ansar Allah with their six wars, which ended in 2010. 2011 saw the start of protests that culminated with the end of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s corrupt reign. But the transition that followed, crafted by the international community and rejected by Yemenis, left the regime intact, giving it half the seats in the new coalition government, and giving the Islah-dominated Joint Meetings Party­—the allies of Saleh’s General People’s Congress—the other half.

The farcical “election” of Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi—who was the only candidate on the ballot—was rejected by Ansar Allah, the youth and Hirak, also known as the Southern Movement.   

The National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which was inclusive, resulted in a number of outcomes. Ansar Allah is here to implement them, something the government failed to do.

This past summer, the government removed the country’s fuel subsidies—a lifeline for the poor in Yemen’s volatile economy. Ansar Allah heard the people’s cries and empathized with their pain, and soon a new revolution was to sweep the streets.

Protests against the fuel subsidies, led by Ansar Allah, but joined by thousands of youth, tribesmen and even soldiers, showed the country what Ansar Allah’s priorities are: Justice, democracy and the people.

The removal of the subsidies proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or rather, Hadi’s back. Anger against the decision spread through the country, with Yemenis from all walks of life renewing their faith in Yemen; hoping it could be a better and more decent place for all Yemenis. Ansar Allah is here to answer their calls.

The fight against the old for something new continues. The government has spent years trying to tackle the scourge of Al-Qaeda. What Yemen and the US failed to do in four years, Ansar Allah accomplished in four days, successfully removing Al-Qaeda from Rada’a.

After Sept. 21, the movement had the upper hand in Yemen, but still chose to sign the Peace and National Partnership agreement with Hadi and other parties, including Islah, in order to form a more inclusive government and to implement the NDC outcomes.

Tensions escalated in January after Hadi’s chief of staff, Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak decided to move forward with a draft constitution without consensus. Ansar Allah said it had no choice but to stop him.

Ansar Allah officials said they discovered a vehicle full of weapons that were smuggled from the presidential battalion. As a result, popular committees had to take the battalion to protect it from looting. Imagine if those weapons had fallen into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

On Jan. 21, Hadi and Ansar Allah signed an agreement that all sides would return to the positions they held before Jan. 19, but the agreement collapsed when Bahah’s government—and President Hadi himself—resigned.

Ansar Allah gave political parties a three day deadline to come to an agreement, or the movement would take the necessary steps to fill the political vacuum. Those three days came and went.

On Jan. 6, the Revolutionary Committee announced a constitutional declaration that addressed many of the goals of the 2011 uprising. The declaration dismissed the Parliament, which was largely GPC. It called for a national council of 551 members that would be tasked with forming a five-member presidential council.  

Ansar Allah is here to fulfill the promise of the revolution by removing corrupt officials and bringing them to justice, ending American drone strikes, all foreign interference in the country’s affairs and forming a new government.

We’ve fought Islahi militias, led by Ali Mohsen, who were the largest sponsors of jihadi terror. Their overseer, Saudi Arabia, is determined to lead the country down the path of sectarian war, to hit back at their enemy, Iran—which Ansar Allah has relations with. Ansar Allah won’t let Yemen fall like Libya or Syria.

This movement is a youthful one, led by the youthful Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, who is in his 30s. It is serious about tackling the country’s most pressing problems. Yemenis can look to Sa’ada for an example of what Ansar Allah is capable of.

The path to freedom in Arab Spring countries has flooded into a river of blood and violence. For Yemen, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but also danger.

As US-ally Saudi Arabia funds extremists in Yemen in hopes of defeating Ansar Allah, it is clear that the international community’s aim for the Spring was to destroy Arab armies and infrastructure, so Israel will come out on top without having to go to war. The Arab world would destroy itself from within.

But Ansar Allah has revived the revolution and put it back into the hands of the people. The government abandoned Yemen when it resigned on Jan. 22. Ansar Allah will never abandon the Yemeni people.

Hussain Al-Bukhaiti is a pro-Houthi activist based in Sana'a.