Representatives of Yemen’s ultra-conservative Salafist community agreed on Wednesday to form a political union, they announced at the end of a two-day conference.
“The conference has decided to form a political entity ̶ Yemen’s Al-Rashad (righteousness) Union,” they said in a statement.
A committee was appointed to prepare for a congress that would formally establish the new Salafist party, which distinguishes itself from Yemen’s main Islamist Muslim Brotherhood Al-Islah (reform) party.
The Salafists, who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam that seeks a return to practices that were common in the early days of the faith, have yet to set a date for the meeting.
They said they would take part in future elections, and called for dialogue with Al-Qaeda, northern Shiite rebels, as well as southern separatists, in order to “guarantee Yemen’s unity.”
The move signals the first involvement into politics by Yemen’s Salafists, who until now been represented only by religious associations and charities.
It comes after Islamists rose to power in Tunisia and Egypt following popular uprisings that ousted autocrats.
The hardliners also stated their support for “Syrians against the tyranny of President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.”
At least 8,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since Assad’s troops launched a brutal crackdown on an uprising against his rule that erupted a year ago.
Yemen has itself been rocked by an uprising that saw former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled for 33 years, sign a power transfer deal under which President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi ̶ formerly Saleh’s deputy ̶ was sworn in to lead the restive country for an interim period of two years.