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Ash-Shabab al-Muminin (الشباب المؤمن)
Believing Youth (BY)
Participant in Shia insurgency in Yemen, Yemeni Revolution and Syrian Civil War[1]
Houthis Logo.png
Houthi logo reading "God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam"[2][3][4]
Active 1994–present (armed since 2004)
Ideology Zaydi Shi'a Islamism[5]
Groups Houthis, allied Shi'a tribes in Sa'dah
Leaders Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi  
Abdul-Malik al-Houthi
Headquarters Sa'dah, Yemen
Area of operations North Yemen and South-Western Saudi Arabia
Allies  Iran
InfoboxHez.PNG Hezbollah
Opponents Yemen Republic of Yemen
 Saudi Arabia (2009–2010)
ShababFlag.svg AQAP[8]
Battles and wars Shia insurgency in Yemen
Syrian Civil War[9][10]

The Houthis (Arabic: الحوثيونal-Ḥūthiyyūn), also known as the Partisans of God (أنصار الله Ansar Allah) or Believing Youth (BY; الشباب المؤمن ash-Shabāb al-Mu‘min), are a Zaidi Shia insurgent group operating in Yemen.

The group takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, their former commander, who was reportedly killed by Yemeni army forces in September 2004.[11] Several other commanders, including Ali al-Qatwani, Abu Haider, Abbas Aidah and Yousuf al-Madani (a son-in-law of Hussein al-Houthi), have also been killed by Yemeni forces.[12] The Houthi brothers' father, Badreddin al-Houthi, is said to be the spiritual leader of the group.[13]


The Houthi movement began as the Believing Youth (BY), which was founded in 1992 in Saada Governorate[14]:1008 by either Houthi family member Muhammad al-Houthi,[15]:98 or his brother Hussein al-Houthi.[16] The BY established school clubs and summer camps[15]:98 in order to "promote a Zaidi revival" in Saada.[16] By 1994–1995, 15–20,000 students had attended BY summer camps.[15]:99

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, BY-affiliated youth began chanting anti-American and anti-Jewish slogans in the Saleh Mosque in Sana'a after Friday prayers. This led to confrontation with government, and 800 BY supporters were arrested in Sana'a in 2004. President Ali Abdullah Saleh then invited Hussein al-Houthi to a meeting in Sana'a, but Hussein declined, so on 18 June 2004 Saleh sent government forces to arrest Hussein.[17] Hussein responded by launching an insurgency against the government, but was killed on 10 September 2004.[18] The insurgency continued intermittently until a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2010.[19]

The Houthis participated in the 2011 Yemeni Revolution as well as the ensuing National Dialogue Conference (NDC). However, they rejected the provisions of the November 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council deal, which included immunity for former president Saleh and the establishment of a coalition government.[20]

By 9 November 2011, Houthis were said to be in control of two Yemeni governorates (Saada and Al Jawf) and close to taking over their third governorate (Hajjah),[21] which would enable them to launch a direct assault on Yemeni capital Sana'a.[22] By May 2012, it was reported that Houthis controlled a majority of Saada, Al Jawf and Hajjah governorates, had gained access to the Red Sea and had started erecting barricades north of the capital Sana'a in preparation for new conflict.[23]

By 21 September 2014, Houthis were said to control parts of the Yemen capital Sana'a including government buildings and a radio station.[24] As of January 2015 Houthis remained in control of the capital, Sana'a, and other towns such as Rada' City in Al Bayda' Governorate, but control was strongly challenged by Al-Qaeda. It was believed by Western states and Saudi Arabia that the Houthis had accepted aid from Iran while Saudi Arabia was aiding their Yemeni rivals.[25]

On 20 January 2015, Shia Houthi rebels had taken the presidential palace in the capital Sana'a. President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was in presidential palace during the takeover but safe.[26]


There is a difference between the al-Houthi family, which has about twenty members[15]:102 and the Houthi movement, which took the name "Houthi" after the death of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi in 2004.

Membership of the group had between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters as of 2005[27] and between 2,000 and 10,000 fighters as of 2009.[28] In the Yemen Post it was claimed, however, that they had over 100,000 fighters.[29] According to Houthi expert Ahmed Al-Bahri the Houthis had a total of 100,000-120,000 followers, including both armed fighters and unarmed loyalists.[30]


Houthis belong to the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam, also known as Fivers, a sect of Islam almost exclusively present in Yemen. They are from the Shi'ite minority similar to the Twelvers found mainly in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran and are known for being most similar to Sunni Muslims in matters of religious law and rulings. They do however, believe in the concept of an Imamate as being essential to their religion, which makes them distinct from Sunnis.[31]

The Houthis have asserted that their actions are for the defence of their community from widespread and systematic discrimination, whereas the Yemeni government has in turn accused the insurgents of intending to overthrow the regime out of a desire to institute Zaidi Shia religious law,[32] destabilising the government and stirring anti-American sentiment.[33] The Houthis have told people they are “praying in the wrong way” by raising their arms, as is the custom among Sunnis in Yemen.[34]

The Yemeni government has also accused the Houthis of having ties to external backers, in particular the Iranian government, as Iran is a Shia-majority country.[35] In turn, the Houthis have countered with allegations that the Yemeni government is being backed by virulently anti-Shia external backers such as al-Qaeda and the monarchy of Saudi Arabia,[36][37][38] despite the fact that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was also Zaidi.[39]


Campaign methods[edit]

Houthis and their massive base of support rely mainly on peaceful methods of campaign, most notably civil disobedience, but more recently have involved non-peaceful methods as evidenced by the governmental coup on 20 January 2015. In a new series of protests which was provoked by Yemeni government's decision in July 13, 2014 to increase fuel prices,[43] Houthi leaders succeeded to organize massive rallies in the capital Sana'a to protest the decision and to demand resignation of the incumbent government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi for "state-corruption".[44] Thousands of Yemenis responded to the Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi's call to "erect tents, carry out sit-ins and organize marches" in the capital.[45]


  Controlled by Houthis
  Controlled by Hadi loyalists.
  Controlled by Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia

The Houthis' independent administration includes the following territories:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, Ariel Ben (31 May 2013). "Report: Yemen Houthis fighting for Assad in Syria". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Baron, Adam (30 October 2012). "Yemenis suspect Iran's hand in rise of Shiite rebels". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  3. ^ "Houthis celebrate birth of Prophet Muhammad". Al Jazeera. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "Yemen says Houthi rebel leader may be dead". Reuters. 27 December 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "What is the Houthi Movement?". 25 September 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Houthis fighting ‘Western imperialism". January 13, 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Houthi logo says "Damn the Jews"". 3 December 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Al-Qaeda Announces Holy War against Houthis
  9. ^ "وجود الحوثيين في النجف يثير أزمة بين الرئيس اليمني والتيار الصدري". الاهرام الرقمى. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  10. ^ ARIEL BEN SOLOMON (31 May 2013). "Report: Yemen Houthis fighting for Assad in Syria". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Deaths in Yemeni mosque blast. Al Jazeera. 2 May 2008.
  12. ^ Press TV Saudi soldier, Houthi leaders killed in north Yemen, 19 November 2009
  13. ^ John Pike. "al-Shabab al-Mum?en / Shabab al-Moumineen (Believing Youth)". Global Security. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Freeman, Jack (2009). "The al Houthi Insurgency in the North of Yemen: An Analysis of the Shabab al Moumineen". Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 32 (11): 1008–1019. doi:10.1080/10576100903262716. ISSN 1057-610X. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen: The Huthi Phenomenon". RAND. 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Yemen's Abd-al-Malik al-Houthi". BBC. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Yemen: The conflict in Saada Governorate - analysis". IRIN. 24 July 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "Yemeni forces kill rebel cleric". BBC News. 2004-09-10. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  19. ^ Saeed Al Batati (21 August 2014). "Who are the Houthis in Yemen?". BBC. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "The Huthis: From Saada to Sanaa". International Crisis Group. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "Houthis Close to Control Hajjah Governorate, Amid Expectations of Expansion of Control over Large Parts of Northern Yemen". Islam Times. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "Al-Houthi Expansion Plan in Yemen Revealed". Yemen Post. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  23. ^ "New war with al-Houthis is looming". Yemen observer. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  24. ^ "Houthis seize government buildings in Sanaa". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  25. ^ Kareem Fahim (January 7, 2015). "Violence Grows in Yemen as Al Qaeda Tries to Fight Its Way Back". The New York Times (The Times Company). Retrieved January 8, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Yemen Houthi rebels 'seize presidential palace'". BBC News. 20 January 2015. 
  27. ^ Philips, Sarah (28 July 2005). Cracks in the Yemeni System. Middle East Report Online.
  28. ^ "Pity those caught in the middle". The Economist. 19 November 2009. 
  29. ^ "Thousands Expected to die in 2010 in Fight against Al-Qaeda". Yemen post. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  30. ^ Ahmed Al-Bahri: Expert in Houthi Affairs, 10 April 2010
  31. ^ Pike, John. "Zaydi Islam". http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/intro/islam-zaydi.htm. 
  32. ^ "Deadly blast strikes Yemen mosque". BBC News. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2009. 
  33. ^ Sultan, Nabil (10 July 2004). Rebels have Yemen on the hop. Asia Times Online.
  34. ^ ,Yemen's war: Pity those caught in the middle
  35. ^ "Cable Viewer". Wikileaks. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  36. ^ "Saudi, al-Qaeda support Yemen crackdown on Shias". Press TV. 29 August 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  37. ^ "Al-Qaeda Fighting for Yemeni Government Against Houthi Shia Rebels...". 29 December 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  38. ^ "Yemen employs al-Qaeda mercenaries: Houthis". Press TV. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  39. ^ "Ali Abdullah Saleh Al-Ahmar". APS Review Downstream Trends. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  40. ^ "Meetings push government and Houthis closer towards "reconciliation"". Yemen Times. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  41. ^ "Middle East". Arab News. Retrieved 23 January 2013. [dead link]
  42. ^ "Sana’a Cards to Pressurize Houthis to Enter New Dialogue Rounds". Yemen Post. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  43. ^ "Yemenis protest fuel price hikes in several cities". PressTV. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  44. ^ "1000s of Yemen’s Houthis protest in Sana’a". PressTV. August 20, 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  45. ^ "1000s of Yemenis stage massive anti-government protest". PressTV. Aug 18, 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  46. ^ Yemeni regime loses grip on four provinces
  47. ^ Houthis Expanding Outside Sa’ada
  48. ^ (page 14)
  49. ^ "الصحوة نت - Houthi militants storm school in Amran". Alsahwa. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  50. ^ The Christian Science Monitor. "Yemenis suspect Iran's hand in rise of Shiite rebels". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  51. ^ Hakim Almasmari, For CNN (27 November 2011). "Medics: Militants raid Yemen town, killing dozens". CNN. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  52. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-291146343.html
  53. ^ a b c "Houthi Group Builds Checkpoints after Deadly Car Bomb Blast". Yemen Post. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  54. ^ "Picking up the pieces". Al Ahram Weekly. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  55. ^ 24 Houthis Killed in Car Bomb Blast in Jawf
  56. ^ "Houthi Fails in Revolution Exam". Yemen Fox. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  57. ^ Al-Houthi Expansion Plan in Yemen Revealed
  58. ^ a b c "Truce shook on between Houthis, Al-Shahel tribesmen in Hajja". Yemen Times. 30 August 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  59. ^ a b c d "Yemeni minister: Iranian RG advised Houthis to control Midi port". Yemen Fox. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  60. ^ Yemen Fox. "Two Houthis killed in clashes with Hajjah tribesmen". Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  61. ^ a b "Yemen’s Huthi Movement in the Wake of the Arab Spring". Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  62. ^ "Houthi, tribesmen confrontations leave two women dead; locals fear escalation to war". The Free Online Library. 27 August 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  63. ^ a b c d "Houthis seek to take control over Sana'a". Yemen Fox. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 

External links[edit]