Understanding the Houthi conflict in northern Yemen: A social movement approach
Since 2004, the Yemeni government has been fighting a bloody civil war with local Zaydi Shia forces known as the Houthis in the country's north. Conventional explanations rooted in the recent history of the civil war fail to adequately account for the rise of the rebels and their fundamental grievances, however. A social movement approach, which can contextualize the Houthi rebellion within a historical evolution of Zaydi movements, is used here to explain the transition of the Houthis from non-violent social movement to armed insurrectionary group. The Yemeni regime's anti-Zaydi policies and nationalist narrative, along with a competing Wahhabi religious movement, led to a series of inter- and intra-movement disputes that fostered the rise of increasingly oppositional Zaydi factions like the Houthi. The interplay between the Houthi leadership's complex framing of Zaydi grievances and escalating regime-challenger interactions over a public protest movement explains the Houthis' recourse to violence in 2004.