Sectarian or political conflict between Houthis and Islah?
By Nasser Arrabyee, 26/11/2012
With an unprecedented attack on Shiite mourners in the heart of Yemeni capital Sanaa this week, fears are increasing that a sectarian conflict is
in its way to add insult to injuries for the political conflict- torn county.
Thousands of Al Houthi Shiite supporters celebrated the day of Ashura in the capital Sanaa this year for the first time after years of only celebrating that occasion in the northern province of Saada where they led six wars with the government troops for their beliefs. (Ashura is the day when Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib was killed, more 1400 years ago).
Three people were killed and 13 others injured when gunmen fired RPG at the gate of Zahrar Al Madayen Hall, a public place for different social occasions, in Al Juraf area, the northern part of Sanaa, where Al Houthi supporters were celebrating Saturday afternoon, November 24, 2012.
The RPG was fired to the gate of the Hall while Shiite mourners were starting to get out from the place. The perpetrators escaped on their car.
Earlier in the day, at least nine people were injured when a land mine exploded under their car in Al Motoon area of Al Jawf province , the place where Al Houthi supporters are often in clashes with the followers of the sunni Islamist party Islah, that struggles to prevent Al Houthi from taking control over neighboring provinces.
The top leader of Al Houthi Shiites, Abdul Malik Al Houthi, said in a statement immediately after the attack, " hired" elements were behind the attack with the aim of making a sectarian war in Yemen. And he held responsible the national unity government for arresting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
All political parties and organizations condemned the attack as a criminal and terrorist act.
Hassan Zaid, secretary general of Al Hak party, whose members are Houthi supporters, said that the extremism discourse and calling people Kafirs is the reason behind the attack.
"We know very well who was behind it, but what is more important now is to know how to eradicate extremism that makes some groups call other Muslims Kafirs," said Hassan Zaid.
The attack came while Yemen is in an exceptionally critical situation as Yemenis are readying to sit on the table of a national dialogue that is expected to come out with solutions for all conflicting groups under one State including Al Houthi group.
A few days before the attack on the Shiite mourners, a statement attributed to unnamed religious leaders, said that those preparing for the dialogue are not doing something for the interest of Islam, and they should be killed.
The statement showed that there were some religious groups against participation of Al Houthi group in the dialogue. This group says, if Al Houthi, as an armed group, is participating, then why Al Qaeda is not allowed to participate? Al Qaeda should participate in the dialogue.
The officials say Al Qaeda can participate in the dialogue if they put down the weapons. However, no one told Al Houthi group to put down their arms, because there are more armed groups who would participate, like the armed tribesmen who form the majority of the two main political parties, the Islamist party, Islah, and the Saleh's party, People's General Congress.
The director of the office of the President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi said that those behind the attack wanted either to obstruct the dialogue or make a sectarian war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
"They are wrong if they think they could make a sectarian war, and they stupid if they think they can foil the dialogue and turn back the wheels of change," said Nasr Taha Mustafa, director of Presidential office.
Yemeni activists, in general, look at the attack as a natural result for the continuous conflict between Al Houthi supporters and supporters of the largest Islamist party, Islah ( brotherhood in Yemen).
But the activist look differently to the nature of this conflict. Some say it is sectarian, and some say it is political, and some say it is both political and sectarian. But, surprisingly, all activists asked by the Weekly agreed that Saudi Arabia and Iran are behind the conflict.
The political activist Mohammed Khamis said the conflict between Islah and Houthi is political not sectarian.
However, activist Yahya Al Harbi disagrees saying that the conflict is sectarian. " Saudi Arabia is supporting Islah, and Iran is supporting Al Houthi," said Al Harbi.
The lawyer Amin Arrabyee, said the conflict between Islah and Al Houthi is both political and sectarian. " The state of law and order would make different groups live and coexist with each other," said the lawyer Arrabyee.
Yemenis are waiting for the result of the Investigations over the attack on Shiite mourners, although they know very well that no results were announced of any previous investigation of any political assassinations ( hundreds if not thousands of political assassination happened during this crisis).
For instance, only two days before the attack on the Shiite mourners, 10 senior military officers were killed when their Russian-made Antonove plane crashed over an empty market inside the capital Sanaa after it was allegedly shot down with six bullets on its right wing. Investigation is also going on, and Yemenis are desperately waiting despite the fact that the black box has been taken to Russia.