Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, on August 18. The protesters in Yemen were marching in support of the Houthi movement, which is the largest opposition group in the country. The Houthis are a religious group and social movement, but also they also have an armed wing.
The leader of the group, Abdulmalek al-Houthi, initially called for the protesters to occupy various public areas in Sanaa and elsewhere across the country. The protests are largely considered to be an attempt to rekindle some of the energy that was sparked in 2011 during the Arab Spring Revolutions.
The protesters cited a variety of reasons for their most recent march. They demanded that fuel subsidies be reinstated, which were significantly cut earlier this July. The subsidies led to an increase in fuel price, which spiked at a 90 percent increase from prior rates. The new fuel prices drastically increased the cost of living for its population, which is the poorest in the Arab world. The protesters also demanded the current government to disband in favor of a more representative cabinet.
According to organizers between 10,000 and 100,000 people joined in the demonstrations, which included demonstrators that were bused in from other provinces of Yemen.
Many are concerned that the protests will spark conflicts between the Houthis, who are Shia, and the Islah party, which currently controls the government and is Shiite. One government official speaking on the condition of anonymity said “They [Houthis] build a presence, provoke violence and react with violence.” A spokesman for the Houthi movement responded by saying the protest was “aimed at meeting our goals, which are the goals of everyone in Yemen” and that the protests will be peaceful.
The protest has also attracted some people who are not members of the Houthi party but who wish to voice their general discontent with the current government. However, no other major political party in Yemen has backed the protests as of this writing. The effects of the protest remain to be seen, but many are watching the protests closely to see how (or if) they will cause a change in government or society.
– Andre Gobbo