Sana’a: In Yemen, there’s no sign of an end to the internecine battles between armed Al Houthi rebels and the government. On Wednesday, the Al Houthis seized Ibb city, two days after they took over Hodeida air and seaports, a significantly strategic port after Aden.
Like Hodeida, the militias advancement into Ibb city, positioned 150km south of the capital Sanaa, went unopposed, unquestioned and unchallenged. Last month, after four days of intensive clashes in the capital, Sana’a unexpectedly fell to Al Houthi militias. The aftermath to the clashes was far more debilitating; neighbourhoods engulfed in fire, displaced families, schools and universities shut down, and increased presence of armed men on the streets .
“The revolution has robbed us of a future,” said Mohammad Al Qalisi, a student at Al Fauz school. “Four years on, and our dream seems more elusive than in 2011.”
Zakariya Dhaman, Radio Presenter with a local radio station in Sana’a, aspiring to to be a film director after university said, “Since 2011, I have been going backwards.”
“I’m afraid, in the midst of this unending crisis, we young people are stuck. I don’t see signs of political stability soon. It’s becoming just like Iran,” said Dhaman.
The Al Houthis, also known as ‘Ansar Allah’ or ‘Partisans of God’, are part of the Shiite Zaydi, a branch of the Shiite Imamiya of Iran. After several uprisings in the last decade, the Al Houthis gained control over Saa’da, parts of Amran, Al Jawf and Hajjah provinces in Yemen.
Since July this year, Yemen’s security situation debilitated as a result of the country’s warring factions, and lack of government despite the UN-brokered peace deal on Sept. 21.
Whether it’s government buildings, hospitals or museums, it’s not an uncommon sight to see buildings that were once guarded by the security forces, now in the hands of rebel militia in the capital.
After finishing high school, a waiflike 20-year-old Atul Hassan donned in a ‘thawb’, carrying a ‘Jambiya’ (Yemeni sword) and rifle, showing his support for the group said,“We are with the people, we want what the people want. Before the Al Houthis, people were voiceless, and lacking rights.”
Similarly, Mohammad Al Anesi, who runs his construction business in Sana’a, said his trust in the government is waning due to the deplorable living conditions, and uncontrollable corruption.
Despite his support for the movement, he denied being a part of it and strongly opposed the rebel group’s ideology and anti-US slogans.
Unlike Hassan and Al Anesi, other Yemenis sense the Al Houthis are astute in pandering to the people’s needs.
Maryam Al Junaid, a 29-year-old student of Hospital Administration, University of Science and Technology, Sana’a said, “A very telling example is how they got the government to reduce the fuel prices not once, but twice.”
“Looks like we are moving in a similar direction to Libya or Syria,” said Al Anesi, fearing for the country’s future.
The 51st anniversary of the revolution against the British occupation on Oct.14, saw tens of thousands of people descended in Aden’s port town to demand a secession from the north.
Despite an approval by the presidential panel to transform Yemen into a six-region federation in February this year, no referendum has been passed.
Dr. Walid Al Bakili, a supporter of Al Hirak Al Janoubi, or the Southern movement said that it would be better if Aden became a federal state. Since the civil war in 1994, a lot of powers have moved to the north, “this has not been good for us.”
“Especially after the Al Houthi takeover of Sana’a, a majority of Adeni people are keen on a separation,” he said.
“The south is the real issue. Without a real agreement in the south, Yemen cannot establish stability, and this will leave room for AQAP (Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) and tribes to operate on their own,” said London-based, Yemen analyst, Fernando Carvajal.
With the recent appointment of the new prime minister Khaled Bahah, one would hope, the country is being steered in the right direction. However, some analysts remain skeptical.
“The appointment of Bahah in my opinion doesn’t say much about the government improving. He will not have much power, since Hadi disapproves and since he has no power from any political party. Al Houthis will run the government regardless of who is the prime minister,” said Carvajal.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, on Monday, in meetings with the UN Security Council in New York, called for Bahah to take “swift action” to form a new government.
“A lot remains to be seen,” Dhaman continued, “In Yemen there are a lot of Yemenis who do not believe in the Republic of Yemen, they believe in their tribal ideologies.”
Charlene Anne is a freelance journalist based in Sana’a