Yemen condemns Qatari role in promoting rebel agenda to students

Qatar Charity funds printing of textbooks with curriculum bent towards Houthi ideology

A boy salutes the flag as he and supporters of the Houthi movement attend a rally to celebrate following claims of military advances by the group near the borders with Saudi Arabia, in Sanaa, Yemen October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
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Yemen’s government has condemned Qatari funding of school textbooks with a modified curriculum reflecting the ideology of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Ministry of Education said that by paying for the printing of these textbooks for distribution in Houthi-held areas, the Qatar Charity had become complicit in poisoning the minds of Yemeni students.

“It is no secret that since their coup, the Houthi militias have manipulated and altered the school curricula in Yemen to serve their malicious political and sectarian agenda,” the ministry said in a statement released on the state Saba news agency.

“In this regard, the ministry condemns Qatar Charity for funding the printing of these poisonous curricula which target destroying the Yemeni students' ideology and spoil their beliefs and future.

“By funding the printing of the books, Qatar Charity has become a partner with the Houthis in poisoning the minds of the Yemeni students.”

The Qatar Charity, which describes itself as a non-government organisation, began operating in Yemen in 1992 through small local charities and opened its own office in Haddah city in Sanaa in 2012.

A ministry official who asked to remain anonymous said the Qatari move was "not acceptable" and did not come under the category of charity work. "The Qatari foundation could have given the funds to Unicef or to the ministry of education in the legitimate government," the official told The National.

“The Houthis have corrupted the school books since they took over Sanaa at the end of 2014. They have omitted lessons that don’t go along with their policy and included lots of material that represents their sectarian ideology,” the official said.

The Yemeni Scholars Association, a body that includes the country’s top religious experts, has spoken out against the rebels' attempts to tamper with the curriculum, saying this “deepens the intellectual and the cultural gap and produces a new sectarian generation in the country”.

Abdullah Mohamed, a teacher at a secondary school in Aden, said Qatar’s ultimate goal in funding the modified Houthi textbooks was to create a new Yemeni generation with an ideology similar to the Iran-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon and Hashed Al Shaabi militias in Iraq.

“Qatar doesn’t care about the Yemeni people; all it cares about is achieving its political agenda in Yemen which serves Iran in general,” Mr Mohamed said.

The rebels have also been importing Iranian books promoting the Shiite doctrine followed in Iran. Security forces in Marib and Jawf provinces have repeatedly intercepted shipments of such books, which are mainly distributed to students at summer camps organised by Houthi authorities during the school holidays.