By Sarah Hassan
When Houthis took Sana'a by storm in September 2014, Yemenis were haunted by the comeback of the pre-1964 racist dynastical reign known as Imamite. During the war triggered by this coup, Yemenis were always motivated to take the side of the government to oppose this religion-based racism.
Appealing for more fighters to press ahead in the six year war to defend his dynastical rule, north Yemen's rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi mainly targeted in his June 18 speech the black people. Al-Houthi gave them what he believed is an honorary title, "the ancestors of Bilal." In Islam's history, Bilal was an Abyssinian black companion of prophet Mohammed. The Houthi title was widely met with distrust among black and white activists alike in Yemen and seen as a flattery in the context of his speech and racist recruitment campaigns on the ground.
Among the commenters was the chief of the national Union of the Marginalized People in Yemen Noaman al-Hudheifi.
Al-Hudheifi said: "The day before, the leader of the Houthis pretended he wants to integrate the 'ancestors of Bilal' into the society but now has prodded his men to recruit the black from their crumbling huts [to the warfronts and then] to the Cemetery of the Martyrs, instead of the mansions of the happy elite in Aljiraf in Sana'a."
Athough there is no enlistment data about the Houthi guerilla, Yemeni NGOs, activists and army sources continuously talk of black Yemenis and African immigrants being exploited as favorable targets for the Houthi recruiting drive.
As recently as yesterday (July 1), the Yemeni army in Baqem of the northern Saada province announced the arrest of three Ethiopian fighters.
Sawt Al-Yemen news website reported on Thursday that Houthis lost 546 fighters in their massive attack on the army's outposts in Qaniya district in the central province of Beidha over the month of June. "Many of them are marginalized (black)" Yemenis, the website said.
"As early as the six wars (2004-2009) between Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime and the Houthis, the rebel fighters were intercepting hungry and desperate African wayfarers heading to Saudi Arabia and force-feeding them the militia's radical Shia ideology to fight alongside them," says Mohammed al-Oqbi a Yemeni human rights activist.
"The black people, whether Akhdam (marginalized Yemenis) or immigrants are favorable fodder for the Houthi non-stopping wars," he says. "In addition to the financial hardships, these people are usually illiterate or, worse, have no language in common with Yemenis in the case of African immigrants. They are easily persuaded or deceived to get into the Houthi recruitment cars and from there straight into the closed military camps."
Nayef al-Budheiji,a university student in Abyan, says, "You know the Hashemite dynasty to which Houthis historically divid Yemen into classes. The main reason why the black people wherever available, are favorable targets for Houthi conscription campaigns because the dynastical militia historically view them as the lowest class, the weakest, the outcast and yes-men."
"But they also cost the militia the least in terms of salaries. Houthis give tribal (middle class) recruits meager amounts. But they give the black empty promises on the condition that they put their lives at stake in defense of the 'holy dynasty.' We are all reading these days how the militia are promised 'the ancestors of Bilal' part of the taxes they imposed if they join the militia's Jihadist campaign."
Imran Saeed, a 41 year old black Yemeni man, says, "The eyes of them (Houthis) are on us more than others, because of how they view us: That we are the weakest. They ignore our existence as human beings altogether. But they remembered us when they mobilize fighters. And this is racist of them.. My opinion is that those who succumb to the threats or to the false promises of the Houthis may go with them and lose their life. Two of my distant relatives unfortunately did in the fifth war in Saada. "
Note: The attached file picture is actually one of the typical Houthi portraits promoting martyrdom in the militia's ranks. It belongs to "Somali" boy "Abdul Fattah Mohd. Tayib as someone who "martyred" in the militia's ranks in Sept. 2016.