Concluding a series of events to document violations committed by Houthis in Yemen, the Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women organized this week an online seminar entitled “Nazi Houthi Racism and Targeting Religious and Ethnic Minorities,” with the participation of a group of Yemeni experts and activists.
The panel included: Dr. Abdo Saeed Moghales, Undersecretary of the Yemeni Ministry of Information; Dr. Norman Stillman, professor emeritus and emeritus Chair of Judaic History at the University of Oklahoma; and, Mr. Nadim Sakkaf, cofounder of the Excellence Foundation for Integration and Development. The seminar was moderated by Dr. Wessam Basindowah, the director of the 8th of March Yemeni Union Women.
Opening the session with an analysis of the similarities between Houthi practices in Yemen and those of Nazis, Dr. Basindowah highlighted the Houthis’ brutality against all Yemenis, which is based on the Houthi belief in racial supremacy. She added, “We also have to recall the Nazis’ brutality against the Jews, because we find similarities between them and the Houthis’ call to eliminate the Jews as a whole.”
Tracking the origins of this racism, Dr. Abdo Saeed Moghales described how the Nazi’s belief in Aryan racial supremacy constituted the core of their discriminatory doctrine and “following Hitler’s ascent to power in late January 1933, inhuman practices ensued against the Jews in particular and the opponents to the Nazis in general.”
Dr. Moghales, noting Iran’s historical and diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany, said that Shah Reza Pahlavi announced that Iran was an Aryan nation, which was cited by historians as corresponding to the Nazi belief in Aryan nationalism.
Declaring that the Houthis and Nazis belong to the same racist school, Dr. Moghales stated that the Houthi stance against Sunni Muslims, Jews, Baha’is, and Africans is very similar to the Nazis who exalted one race and rejected all the others. Another similarity he refers to is the racial hierarchy, as he said, “Houthis consider the sons of Hassan and Hussein as well as the descendants of Muhammad to be at the top of humanity. Moreover, Houthis add a religious dimension as they believe Muhammad’s progeny were selected by God.”
As the militarized national state built by the Nazis endorsed an authoritarian regime standing against democracy and political pluralism as well as banning political parties and labor unions, Dr. Moghales indicated, “Houthis also established the militarized Imamate of absolute power, rejected pluralism, freedom and democracy, and gave all powers to the leader of the militias.”
More similarities between Nazis and Houthis mentioned by Dr. Moghales included restrictions on marriage to people of other races, persecution and genocide of other sects and religions, and the exclusion of these same sects and races from the country’s formation.
He added, “The Nazi practices by Houthis against Sunnis range from considering them infidels, stealing their money, lands and houses, up to killing them. They also consider the tribes as only servants to the ruling elite without any right to public jobs. Their position against Jews is also similar to the Nazis as Houthis believe they should be expelled and displaced from Yemen, and their properties should be confiscated, just as they did with Al Salem in accordance with their slogan, “Curse on the Jews.”
Further elaborating the history of Jews in Yemen, Dr. Norman Stillman said that “Two decades ago, at the beginning of this century, there were still a few hundred Jews living in Yemen.” He pointed out that most of the Jews in Yemen, who amounted from 50,000 to 60,000 in the middle of the last century, had left Yemen for religious reasons.
“The Jews who stayed in Yemen after the mass immigration resided in northern part of the country in and around the city of Sa’dah. Many of their ancestors had arrived there in the 10th century from Iraq and Persia with Zaidi Imam who came from Persia and established the Zaidi state with Sa’dah at its center.
In general, “this was a relatively tolerant atmosphere towards Jews and restrictions were not strictly enforced,” Dr. Stillman noted.
“Sadly, the region gave birth to the militant Islamic Houthi movement Ansar al-Islam in the late 20th century. They would harass and persecute the Jews who remained there. Some of the Jews who lived in the Sa’dah region and the neighboring regions fled south to Sanaa, only to be caught up in the violence of Houthi rebellion when Houthis took over the government in 2014,” he added.
In what he described as “for public consumption”, Houthis denied that their movement committed crimes against Jews. Stillman remarked, “Jews are frightened by the slogan of Ansar Allah movement ‘Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on Jews,’ which is modeled on Khomeni’s Iran.”
He highlighted that Houthis find inspiration in Iranian Shiites as well as Hezbollah. “The writings of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah figures and the translated works of Iranian authors are circulating as part of Houthis educational propaganda,” he revealed.
“We need a dialogue to address the importance of coexistence in a society based on citizenship,” Mr. Nadim Sakkaf, the representative of Baha’i minority said. “Houthi ideology is against equality, coexistence and acceptance of the other, they don’t believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the rights of citizenship, he added.
Mr. Sakkaf said that although freedoms are guaranteed by international and local laws, and even by the Yemeni constitution, there is ongoing systemic targeting of his sect. Finally, Mr. Sakkaf called for a dialogue to “Build a civil country and the nation’s future.”
Commenting on the speakers’ remarks, Dr. Arwa Al-Khattabi, the head of the Yemeni Broken Chair Organization for Mine Victims, said that the international community has let down the Yemenis. “The United Nations is even providing Houthis with medical and financial support.” She also confirmed the need for youth initiatives to establish a civil state that respects all people.
In conclusion, all participants agreed on the importance of future dialogue among all sects and groups, not for the sake of rule by one group, but for the Yemeni nation as a whole to move forward.
The Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women is a non-governmental organization that represents political non-partisan movements in the struggle to defend human rights in Yemen, with particular focus on rights of women and promotion of peace.