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AL-BUKHAITI TO THE YEMEN TIMES: “THE HOUTHIS’ TAKEOVER CAN NOT BE CALLED AN INVASION”
Published on 21 October 2014 in Interview
Khalid Al-Karimi (author)
The Yemen Times sat down with Hussein Al-Bukhaiti, a self-described Houthi activist who is familiar with the inner workings of the group. He is confident that the Houthis have done well since entering Sana’a. When security forces disappeared, he said, they filled in their ranks, successfully ensuring the security of Sana’a’s residents. They also removed “two major sources of terrorism in the capital,” which to Al-Bukhaiti were Ali Mohsen and the Iman University. Given Yemen’s religious composition, Al-Bukhaiti does not think that “the Iranian system” could ever be implemented in the country. Neither do the Houthis have any interest in bringing back the Imamate. Instead, he describes the Zaydi doctrine as “republican” and the Houthi group as “liberal.”


After the Houthi militants took over the capital Sana’a, how do you describe the security situation?

I think the security situation is better than it was. We do not hear of any further shootings or even problems related to land disputes and revenge issues. However, there are still crimes committed by those who claim they belong to Ansar Allah*. Such crimes can be expected during revolutions. The security forces suddenly left their positions everywhere in Sana’a—even though battles only took place near the 1st Armored Division and in western areas of the capital. Ansar Allah found it necessary to fill in their spots. Ansar Allah proved a good example of the revolution in Yemen.

Though you signed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement, some remain doubtful that you are serious about implementing it…

Those doubters are always part of the former regime [of Ali Abdullah Saleh]. Their only job is to doubt agreements signed by Ansar Allah. Instead of doubting, why do we not wait and see and start implementing the agreement together? We cannot judge Ansar Allah through doubt. We should judge them through their actual work.

Your demands to revoke the lifting of fuel subsidies and remove the government have been realized, at least to some extent. Do you have any further demands?

The prime minister handed in his resignation and the decision of lifting fuel subsidies has been reversed. These two demands have been met. Another demand is the implementation of the NDC outcomes and combating corruption. This is a popular demand, not only the demand of Ansar Allah. If you would ask the leaders of the General People Congress (GPC) or the Islah Party, “are you against corruption?” they would also say yes. These demands will be implemented in accordance with the NDC outcomes and the partnership agreement.

You call for the implementation of the NDC outcomes. At the same time, Ansar Allah militants spread in the capital city. Don’t you think that is a contradiction?

When the security forces left their positions, Ansar Allah found it obligatory to spread in Sana’a. If any thefts or looting would occur, Ansar Allah would be the first to be blamed.  They became responsible for Sana’a. As soon as an efficient government is in place, however, that imposes its presence in all governorates, Ansar Allah will be among the first to hand over its weapons. Once we see the presence of security forces in the capital, Ansar Allah will withdraw.

In your opinion, why did the security forces withdraw? Did they receive orders from the leadership or did they fear fighting with you?

I think it was the government and Hadi who ordered them to withdraw. Ansar Allah was surprised by that. They [the government and Hadi] wanted chaos, looting, riot, and killing to surface. They wanted to show the people that Ansar Allah fell short of its proclaimed goal to achieve peace and security in Sa’ada and Amran. You noticed the gulf countries, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Security Council did not condemn the entering of Ansar Allah to Sana’a—Although they did condemn and mention specific names when Ansar Allah entered Amran. I think it was a scheme. They all agreed to withdraw the security forces from Sana’a to show people that Ansar Allah is not able to maintain security. However, the group has largely succeeded in maintaining security in the capital.

When will the Houthi militants  leave Sana’a and when will the camps be removed?

Removing the camps is directly related to appointing a new prime minister and forming a new government. Once the government is formed, Ansar Allah will be part of it and the security forces will be for all Yemeni people. Then the camps will be removed. They cannot be removed prior to forming the government.

Some say that you will never abstain from weapons and resort to elections instead…

Actually, throughout the history of this group, they have not initiated a single battle. They were attacked and they took action for self-defense. They also launched [pre-emptive] attacks to avoid being attacked. They acted to defend themselves. If Ansar Allah uses weapons to make political gains, they would behave like all other rebellious groups in Africa. When Ansar Allah entered Sana’a, taking it over, they were able to form the government and they were strong enough to overthrow the government. However, they did not do that and continued calling for the same demands. This shows that they do not use weapons to realize particular aims.

Can you really say “we defend ourselves” in describing your invasion of Sana’a?

Ansar Allah is like a party. It exists in Sana’a as well. It was attacked in Al-Qabil village by Ali Mohsen’s secretary. Ansar Allah took action and took over the village. Ansar Allah supporters were attacked in Shamlan and Thalatheen [30th] Street in Sana’a. Ansar Allah members and supporters are present in every place [including Sana’a] and they have the right to defend themselves. The fighters do not come from Sa’ada. So the Houthis’ takeover cannot be called an invasion. If they wanted to invade the capital, battles would take place everywhere in Sana’a.

Did the Houthis come to take over Sana’a or the now-dissolved 1st Armored Division?

They entered Sana’a in order stop the shelling coming from the 1st Armored Division.  The 1st Armored Division was a thorn in the waist of Yemen. Ansar Allah got rid of it. We do not blame the soldiers. We blame Ali Mohsen. He was the source of problems and extremism in Yemen.

Some say the Houthis strive to bring back the Imamate. What do you think about that?

They always say this is the secret agenda of Ansar Allah. Look at the NDC outcomes. Ansar Allah said Yemen is a republic and elections are the way to reach power. They also said women have the right to hold any position even that of president. Their vision was so civil in comparison to other parties. Ansar Allah was liberal and open more than any other party in the NDC. So let us put Ansar Allah on a test. Returning to the imam’s rule is absolutely unacceptable. We have never talked about this. Even Abdulmalik Al-Houthi himself said the Zaydi doctrine is republican.

Does Ansar Allah want to imitate the Iranian system and apply it in Yemen? With Abdulmalik Al-Houthi being the supreme guide just like Ali Khamenei in Iran?

In Iran this kind of ruling has been implemented because the majority of people are Shia. In spite of this, transparent elections are taking place in Iran. However, we cannot apply this system in Yemen because the followers of the Shafi [Sunni] doctrine are bigger in number than the Zaydis [Shia]. For this reason, repeating an Iran-like system is difficult to materialize in Yemen. I think Abdulmalik will never run for election one day, and if I were him, I would remain the spiritual father and a spiritual reference for his group.

Did President Hadi cooperate with you and facilitate your coming to Sana’a?

President Hadi was not controlling Sana’a. He himself was worried about his life in his neighborhood on Al-Siteen [60th] Street. So, he was certainly not controlling Sana’a. Ali Mohsen and the Islah Party were in control of Sana’a. The power of Mohsen and the Islah Party became obvious after the 2011 uprising. That is to say they were the mover and shaker in the capital Sana’a. I think President Hadi feels more comfortable now, because Ali Mohsen was a source of danger for him.

How would you describe your relation with President Hadi?

Hadi is the president of Yemen. In Abdulmalik’s speeches and in all of the statements of leading Ansar Allah figures, Hadi is being called the president. Ansar Allah knows that Hadi is not part of the conflict. They knew Hadi was under the pressure of Ali Mohsen, who became his military adviser. Our relation to him is like any relation between the people and the president.  

Does Ansar Allah have any connection to former President Ali Abdulla Saleh?

Some say there is a relation and mutual support between Ansar Allah and former President Saleh. However, Saleh was deposed in 2011. He is not at the helm of the country. His own son had to hand over the Republican Guard with all its weapons and financial assets. Saleh is not ruling any longer and his son is in the Republican Guard no more. Their media does not promote propaganda against Ansar Allah. Therefore, it is in Ansar Allah’s nature to open a new page with anyone. Ansar Allah does not want to waste their energy and attack many parties.  

The Security Council from time to time publishes statements on Yemen denouncing the violence there with reference to the Houthi group. Do such statements discourage or intimidate you?

We pay no attention to foreign countries. If we relied on foreign players, we could not accomplish such victories and progress. Ansar Allah depends on the people. Unlike the Islah Party we did not hinge on the Security Council and its Chapter VII. Any party that counts on foreign players is doomed to failure. The Islah Party has lost and the people have moved towards Ansar Allah. Ansar Allah is now the unrivaled power in northern Yemen.  

How do you perceive the threats of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)? And do you think Yemen will follow the Iraqi example?

I think after getting rid of Ali Mohsen and his 1st Armored Division, and after purging Al-Iman University [the situation will improve]. They were the two major sources of terrorism in the capital. Terrorist groups exist in Sana’a and they move inside it. What is intimidating are the [suicide] explosions that kill innocent civilians. As for us, we do not fear clashing with Al-Qaeda. Ansar Allah fighters defeated terrorist groups in Kitaf [in Sa’ada]. Now, I do not think Yemen will be like Iraq, because the heart of terrorism has been eliminated.

Given the current fighting between AQAP and the Houthis in Al-Baida do you really think that “the heart of terrorism” has been eliminated?

Ali Mohsen was the most dangerous Yemeni because he was the prime supporter of terrorist acts. He was in Yemen’s capital and now [with him gone] it is easier to combat terrorist groups in other governorates. If the main source of terror is annihilated, other subsidiary branches will perish as a result.

Will you cooperate with the state to combat terrorism?

For sure, especially once the new government is formed. But first, the security authorities should be purged from terrorist groups that entered the security forces through appointments made by Ali Mohsen. Once this is done, the movements of security forces and counter-terrorism activities will be truly secret. Also, in case Ansar Allah fighters will be conscripted, they will be part of the people and the army in their fight against terrorism.

* At the beginning of the National Dialogue Conference the Houthis started to call themselves “Ansar Allah,” or “Supporters of God.”

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