Several Western nations have closed their embassies in Yemen this week and thousands took part in protests amid continuing unrest in the impoverished country.
The developments follow the announcement last week by Houthi rebels that they had assumed control and last month’s resignation of President Abed Mansour Hadi and his cabinet.
The Intercept described the country as now being “in a state of chaos,” with its capital looking “less like a city governed by new leaders, and more like a neighborhood taken over by a rival gang.”
U.S. officials said Tuesday its embassy in Sanaa was closing; the UK announced Wednesday it was closing its embassy, while France announced its facility’s closure would happen on Friday.
Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby said after the closure was announced, “We continue to have the capability—unilaterally if need be—of conducting counter-terrorism operations inside Yemen.”
Meanwhile, large protests against the takeover by the anti-American, anti-al Qaeda group took place in Sanaa and Taiz as well as other cities on Wednesday. CNN reports there being resistance to the rebels “particularly in the south, where there’s a long-running secessionist movement, and in the oil-rich province of Marib to the east of Sanaa.”
Agence France-Presse reports that “the militiamen [Houthis] fired warning shots and used batons and daggers to disperse several hundred protesters rallying against them, wounding at least four people, organizers and witnesses said.”
The protests were also reportedly to mark the four-year anniversary of the start of the uprising that led to the ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh—a man who some say is a key player in the current instability.
Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemeni analyst and visiting scholar at the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, told the Washington Post, “Saleh handed over the presidency, but he did not hand over power.”
The New York Times reports that Saleh Ali al-Sammad, the senior Houthi leader in Sanaa, declared that the rebel takeover was “not a coup” and said that the rebel movement “does not want anything more than partnership, not control.”
Najam Haider, an assistant professor of religion at Barnard College who specialize in Islam, wrote last week at Al Jazeera that the group’s “political views are as complicated as the historical origins of their movement.”
“In the short term, they oppose Hadi’s plan to divide Yemen into six federal states. They have repeatedly rejected a full restoration of the historical Zaidi imamate, the Shia political institution that dominated the country for nine centuries. Instead, the Houthis are seeking a new constitution that guarantees them a representative political voice and guards against the kind of persecution their community has endured since 1962,” he continued.
“The long-term effect of recent Houthi victories remains unclear,” he wrote.
For many Yemenis, one thing has remained a constant—difficult living situations, as Mona El-Naggar reported last week for the Times.
Though “Yemenis are now confronting a whole new level of political uncertainty. . . people here say everyday life is unchanged,” she wrote.
“Difficult is just how life is in Yemen, yesterday, today and every day. It does not matter that the president and his cabinet have resigned, that the government has not functioned for weeks or that the gunmen in control of the streets say they plan to set up a new regime to their own liking,” El-Naggar reported.
Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.