Academia   •   July 31, 2017

In November 2011, after months of protests for the president of Yemen to resign, Ali Abdullah Saleh signed over power to his deputy, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, who took over power in February 2012. However, with Hadi in power the change the public sought did not come quick enough and the Houthis,1 who champion Yemen’s Zaidi Shiite Muslim minority, took advantage of the political instability to take control of the Saada province and its neighbouring areas in the north. In September 2014 the Houthis moved into Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and by January 2015 they had surrounded the royal palace. Hadi managed to escape, and by March 2015 the Houthis were attempting to take control of the entire country, which is when the air campaign led by Saudi Arabia against the Houthis joined the government and other local actors fight on the ground with the aim of putting Hadi back in power and preventing what they saw as Iranian influence in the region. It is under this chaos that the violent extremist groups have managed to grow in prominence in Yemen, taking advantage of the political turmoil and the international focus on the Houthis to carve out their own space in the country.

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