ADEN // High school students in Yemen’s capital pelted a Houthi leader with stones and refused to recite the rebels’ slogan in an act of defiance that has drawn praise from across the country.
The incident, which was captured on mobile phone video, provides evidence of the dissatisfaction among Sanaa residents at the Houthi occupation of the city.
A teacher at Al Kuwait school told The National that the headmaster directed hundreds of students to the school playing field to meet the president of the Houthi's revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali Al Houthi, when he visited on Saturday morning.
“When the students gathered in the field, Mr Al Houthi started to give his speech about the [Saudi-led] offensive [against the Houthis]. When he finished speaking, some of his guards asked the students to repeat the Houthis’ slogan,” said the teacher.
“Some students repeated the slogans but most of them refused to repeat it and they started to sing the national anthem instead,” she said.
The slogan — “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curses to Jews and Victory to Islam” — is chanted at all Houthi rallies.
Defying the Houthis, the students — who were between the ages of 15 an18 — began to throw stones at Mr Al Houthi.
Some of the teachers tried to stop the students by hitting them with sticks, but the pupils continued until Mr Al Houthi and his guards left the school, the teacher added.
A YouTube video of the incident, shared more than 25,000 times, drew praise on social media, with many commending the students for their courage in standing up against the Houthis.
Yemeni writer, Mohammed Gomaih, condemned the Houthis for trying to recruit the students as child soldiers.
“We want the different sides in Yemen’s war to stop using the students in their conflict; we need the Houthis and the anti-Houthis to leave the students out of the political conflicts,” said Mohammed Al Hassani, political analyst and the former managing editor of Al Tagheer news website.
He praised the reaction of the students, saying they were better than their headmaster and teachers who should not have allowed the Houthis to speak to students inside the school.
Abdulmonem Al Shaibani, a professor of education at Taez University, said the people of Sanaa “should learn from the students of Al Kuwait school, who refused to repeat the Houthis’ slogans.”
Mr Al Shaibani accused the Houthis of using children in both the current conflicts and wars of the past. The Houthis have been accused by the UN of recruiting child soldiers and killed several others in different provinces. He said they were now brainwashing children with the Houthis’ mindset.
“I hope that the behaviour of Al Kuwait school in Sanaa will be the first step towards a revolution against the Houthis in Sanaa, so our capital can be free from the Houthis, who try to kill everything beautiful in this country. We consider them to be the enemies of education,” he added.
The Iran-backed Houthis took over Sanaa in September 2014 before launching a military campaign to take over the rest of the country and driving the internationally recognised government into exile.
Since a Saudi-led coalition joined the fighting in March, the Houthis and their allies have been pushed back from southern Yemen towards the Sanaa with the fighting now centred on Taez.
The Houthis are a minority Zaydi Shiite group from Yemen’s Saada province in the far north, and their occupation of other areas of the country has sparked degrees of resistance from protests to the formation of regional militias to fight them.