The true face of the Houthis

Since the rebels marched into Sanaa, they have brought nothing but destruction

Emirates Red Crescent distribute more aid to those affected by the events in Yemen.
Powered by automated translation

A year ago, Yemen’s Houthi rebels surged into Sanaa and overran the capital. Some welcomed them. Such was the anger at the attempt by the government to end fuel subsidies that some in Sanaa were willing to give the ragtag rebels from the north the benefit of the doubt. But trusting the Houthis proved to be a serious mistake.

One year on, the cost of that trust is obvious. The Houthis, backed by Iran, sought nothing less than the total takeover of the country, forcing the government into exile and marching on the southern city of Aden. It is only due to external intervention that the Houthis have been denied their true goal.

In Sanaa, as The National reported yesterday, even their diehard supporters have now deserted them. Last year, pretending to rally people against the fuel subsidy removal, the rebels were able to get thousands on to the streets of Sanaa to protest. But the court of public opinion is unforgiving, and those who in the past might have supported the Houthis have realised over the past few months how hollow their claims to "stand up" for the Yemeni people were.

Would a group that seriously cared about corruption in the country have dissolved parliament and sought to rule without any mandate? Would a group that was truthfully concerned about ordinary working people have led the country into a war that has disproportionately affected the poorest?

The removal of the Houthis from the south of Yemen has also provided a clear contrast. With the help of the UAE, the south is being rebuilt and that progress is clear to their countrymen and women in Sanaa. There’s a clear contrast. Would they prefer to live under the rule of the Houthis or a rebuilt capital with a stable – and legitimate – government? The answer is clear and most Yemenis in Sanaa appear to have reached that conclusion.

For the government, now back in the south, the challenge is to build on that perception, to highlight this contrast, so that as the military battle against the Houthis in Sanaa is waged, the people of the city recognise who the real enemy is and help push them out.