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Who is who in Yemen?

Yemenis, like citizens of number of other Islamic countries, have gone through tough times seeking social justice and freedom. In such process some groups gain power and some lose fair representation due to political agendas. Usually minorities are ones who are easier to sacrifice, and once again Yemeni Shia are paying the price of underrepresentation.

In recent conflict between Houthis and Yemeni Army as many as 500 people were killed during three weeks of flare-up in Sana’a.

Houthis, who are Zaidi Muslims: a small sect of Shia Islam. Media outlets have always identified this militant group as “Shiite insurgents” when Ansar Allah, he military wing of the Houthis Movement, have always stressed that whatever political agenda they carry, they do so on their own behalf and not under the banner of  Shia Islam. They claim seeking justice for Yemenis and not a specific group in this country.

Many, including politicians and media agencies make the mistake of association all Yemeni Shia Muslims with this militant group. 45% of Yemeni population are Shia Muslims and most of them have no interest in military movement. They are loyal native Yemenis who practice Shia faith. Association all Yemeni Shia with Houthis is a misconception that endangers the Shia minority within this country. Historically Shia have been underrepresented and associated with political groups such as Hezbollah and Houthis who barely have good reputation in majority of Shia populations. Such association victimized many native Shia communities who do not receive any support from international committees due to such assumption.

Considering the increasing anti-Shia movements in Middle East it is critical that politicians and media outlets differentiate between militant groups and majority of Shia populations in order to present this minority in a more realistic picture.

The Houthis themselves say to aim to speak for the Yemeni people and represent the Yemeni people’s aspirations, beyond religious dogma and such differentiation is critical.

Shia of Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi, and even south Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia are accused of depending on Iran and therefore this minority has not been supported or even advocated for by Western prodemocracy nations. Although Iran does not mind claiming all Shia and increase its political visibility, most Shia Muslims do not support this ideology of Iran. Ignoring rights of Shia population will only push this minority under the umbrella of Iran ad feed into what this country is aiming for.

International committees must knowledge the pain this community is feeling and protect them from political abuses.


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