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Yemen’s rebel leader says secession possible

Houthi leader denies receiving Iran’s support

Leader of Yemen’s Houthi rebels warned of a possible secession if the government persists in its policy and he denied allegations his group receive funding from Iran.

In response to a set of questions Al Arabiya addressed to him via email, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the current leader of the Zaidi insurgency in the northern governorate of Saada, criticized the stance of Arab nations towards the conflict in Yemen and accused them of lacking understanding of the conflict.

“Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, who recently visited Yemen, has to intensify his efforts in order to engage both parties in dialogue and achieve peace in such an important Arab country,” he told Al Arabiya.

Houthi said he is willing to be cooperative as far as local and Arab mediation is concerned, but argued that Moussa still has to exert more effort.

“Egypt and other Arab countries can play a major role if they want, but till now we haven’t seen a positive mediation on the part of the Egyptian government. In fact, the statement of the Egyptian Foreign Minister seemed to support war more than peace.”

Houthi noted that one of the major obstacles to reaching a peace deal is that the United States and the West are passive about the government’s actions.

“This encourages the government to engage in more unjust measures towards the people and to continue committing its crimes.”

Houthi said allegations that his group is hindering peace negotiations are false, but added that to start dialogue the war has to stop first.

Egypt and other Arab countries can play a major role if they want, but till now we haven’t seen a positive mediation on the part of the Egyptian government

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi

Talks futile

“There is no point in negotiations while the war is still on. It will be totally futile.”

In addition to hindering peace talks, Houthi accused the government of persecuting the Houthis and the entire Zaidi Shiite sect to which they belong.

“They are not hired and when they are, the government sends them to remote areas. Those who work get their salaries suspended frequently and the places where they are concentrated are deprived of any king of economic development.”

The government has also forbidden journalists and diplomats from travelling to the governorates of Saada and Amran where the Yemeni army is fighting the Houthis and the tribes affiliated to them.

Houthi denied reports that the group receives funding from foreign countries and said there is no proof to these allegations.

“Even those who spread those rumors are not sure of what they are saying. They always contradict themselves and sometimes they take back their statements.”

He also denied the involvement of Iran in the insurgency and noted that since the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran has been giving priority to its ties with governments more than people and that this applies to the Yemeni regime as well.

As for talk that the group has an office in Iraq, Houthi replied in the negative, yet did not reject the idea.

“We have the right to open an office in any Muslim country as long as its government approves. However, right now we have no offices anywhere.”

Cultural activities

In response to a question about the main role the group is playing in Yemen, Houthi said they are engaged in cultural activities that aim at taking the country out of its current crisis.

“We are building a culture based on the Quran and which aims at reforming the situation in the country and providing a decent life for its citizens.”

Houthi added that he is in favor of the unity of Yemen as long as justice prevails and human rights are not violated, yet he warned that the government is making it harder for this to happen.

Houthi is the brother of dissident cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi who founded the insurgent group in June 2004 and who enjoyed wide backing in the northern mountains of Yemen. Houthis started the insurgency in response to the government’s growing alliance with the United States and started staging demonstrations in mosques.

The Yemeni government offered a $ 55,000 bounty for his capture and in September 2004 declared he was killed. Since that time, his brother Abdul-Malik has been leader of the group.

The conflict between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels reached its peak in August of this year when the former launched Operation Scorched Earth.

Relief agencies warn of a humanitarian disaster in northern Yemen. Since the rebels started their war against the government in 2004, more than 150,000 fled their homes.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

We are building a culture based on the Quran and which aims at reforming the situation in the country and providing a decent life for its citizens

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi