US terror designation of Houthis: a recent ordeal in Yemen

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Feb 2, 2021

SANAA, Yemen — Yemen’s Houthi group, formally generally known as Ansar Allah, is presently among the many organizations the United States designates as terrorists. One day previous to new US President Joe Biden’s inauguration, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared the Houthis a terrorist group, unleashing conflicting sentiments in Yemen and overseas.

On the native stage, Yemenis are divided. Some welcomed the information, deeming it a step in the correct route. Others reacted with fury, calling it an extension of America’s struggle on Yemen. On Jan. 25, 1000’s of protesters took to the streets within the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa, denouncing the previous US administration’s decision itemizing the Houthi group as terrorists.

Over the final six years, the United Nations has led peace talks between the Houthis and the internationally acknowledged authorities in a bid to resolve the Yemen battle. Now, with the Houthis’ new designation as terrorists, peace talks might face extra hindrances. Plus, army victory towards the Houthis has been unattainable during the last six years, and it appears a protracted street earlier than Houthis lose the struggle.

Houthis have showcased defiance in response to the US labeling, saying it may have no political or army affect. Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam believes this US move is not going to hinder peace talks. “We will not stop our efforts to reach peace in Yemen … it is our responsibility to talk, to end the war and the blockade,” he mentioned in an announcement on Jan. 14.

However, the results of their designation as a terrorist group will likely be inevitable. It is a new chapter in struggling amongst Yemen residents. Abdulsalam, a 45-year-old resident in Sanaa, advised Al-Monitor the US designation of the Houthis is a matter of concern as a result of it’s going to add to civilians’ struggling. “We have been under blockade since 2015. And now new restrictions will start. I feel worried about the repercussions of the US designation,” he mentioned.

Sanaa resident Abdulsalam, who requested that solely his first title be printed as a consequence of safety considerations, runs a grocery store as his supply of revenue. He understands the vast majority of the commodities in his store are imported from exterior Yemen. Such a actuality sparked questions in his thoughts. “Will imports continue to reach Houthi-controlled provinces smoothly? Will aid and food imports be exempted from restrictions? And who can guarantee that importation of such supplies will not be hindered?”

His fear doesn’t appear to be an unfounded fear of the long run. However, it’s a concern of assist organizations working throughout Yemen. On Jan. 24, 22 humanitarian organizations, together with the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and Oxfam, referred to as on the brand new US administration to override the previous administration’s decision. A joint assertion by these organizations mentioned, “This designation comes at a time when famine is a very real threat to a country devastated by six years of conflict, and it must be revoked immediately. Any disruption to lifesaving aid operations and commercial imports of food, fuel, medicine and other essential goods will put millions of lives at risk.”

Leila Amri, a schoolteacher in Sanaa, said the US designation of the Houthis is an additional agony to Yemen’s people. Speaking to Al-Monitor, she said, “The certain thing is that the warlords in the country will not suffer from this move. It is only the civilian population that will bear the brunt. We have been experiencing constant fuel shortages over the last five years, which has made life worse. And now blacklisting the Houthis will certainly affect the lives of millions of people under their rule.”

She added, “I neither support nor protest the US designation. I just do not want to see people drown in further misery.”

Though some civilians have shown their worry about the potential consequences of designating the Houthis a terrorist organization, others have said the definition of terrorism applies to the Houthi movement.

A human rights activist residing in Sanaa told Al-Monitor the Houthis are not different from any other terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS). Declining to be named for fear of reprisal, he said, “It is not hatred to say that Houthis do not differ from other terrorist groups. I live in Yemen, and I know what they have done. If their actions do not mount to terrorism, what else could terrorism be?”

Telling a narrative of what he describes as “Houthi extremism,” the activist mentioned, “Lately, the Houthis have raided restaurants that employ women, claiming that the work of women in such places contradicts our religious identity. But if these women die of hunger or go begging, that would not be a sin in their eyes.”

The activist additionally advised one other instance of the group’s radicalism. “They raided women’s clothing shops that display mannequins, claiming that displaying such shapes ‘is not in compliance with our faith.’ They not only want to rule us but also impose on us what to do, how to think and how to live.”

Over the last five years, Houthis have heightened their dominance of areas under their control. They have silenced critics and shown no tolerance to dissidents. Living circumstances have been dire due to the war and the blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition. The recent US designation is a fresh dose of suffering for the people in Yemen.

Khalil al-Omary, editor-in-chief of the news website Rai Alyemen, argues that the US labeling of Houthis as a terrorist group is not going to depart an unlimited affect on civilians’ lives in Yemen. Omari advised Al-Monitor, “The Houthis have been robbing humanitarian aid to fund their war effort. This is not my opinion; it is a fact substantiated by the UN report. Houthis have taken over at least $1.8 billion in 2019, and this amount was supposed to help pay salaries of public employees and provide basic services to the people.”

Sanaa’s Abdulsalam is not good at politics and cannot predict the future, he admits. But he cannot conceal his pessimism about the situation. “We hope for peace, but we do not expect it soon. This new US designation of Houthis is not good news for Yemen and its people. Our ordeal seems to last long,” he said.