Yemen Post Editor was able to sit with Mohammed Ezan, Founder of the Believing Youth.
Below are points that were said during a long interview which we decided to make shorter so that our readers can understand easier.
Mohammed Ezan starts off saying “We all started as teens, I was only 17 years-old when we established the “Believing Youth”. We did so because we felt that Zaidis were being attacked indirectly by the Wahabis who came from Saudi Arabia, and focused on Sa’ada to spread their beliefs among people who were all Zaidis.”
“When we first started the movement almost 25 years ago, most Ziadi religious scholars were against us when they saw youngsters turning in our direction. We introduced to youngsters smaller books to review their religion, and scholars thought we were trying to replace them.”
He talks about support from the government “We asked President Saleh to support us in the late 80’s and early nineties. We told him that we can help him against the Saudi Arabian existence in Yemen. He gave us YR 400,000 in support, but informed us that he is the president of all Yemenis and not a specific sect. He said that he does not support one group over the other group.”
“We first started our activities by having religious camps during summer vacation. In our first camp, we only had 35 students.”
Hussein Al-Houthi, who was killed by the government and was the Houthi spiritual leader, was not one of the founders of the Believing Youth and joined them many years after it was established. In 2000, Hussein Al-Houthi was admitted to the board of the Believing Youth, and this is when all problems started said Ezan.
“Hussein agreed with his brother Mohammed that the religious sayings of Hashimis had the same value as the sayings of the Prophet. This ideology was spread among their followers and close friends and made people respect them as if they were prophets.”
He added that Hussein used to go against most Zaidi scholars and did not agree with them even though he had little knowledge about the Zaidi sect. He was one of the least educated religiously from among his brothers.
When Hussein first started preaching his way of Zaidi, he divided the Zaidi sect into two sides. One side had all Zaidis, and the other side is what he believed in only. He believed that what he used to say should be written and followed by all Zaidis, even if it meant going against their historical and modern religious scholars of the sect.
Ezam explains more saying “In 2002, Hussein wanted to change the curricula of all the Believing Youth camps spread throughout the country. He wanted his saying to be practiced only. He ordered his followers to write all what he says and print them in books. All his cassettes were distributed to his followers as if he was a prophet and never makes mistakes.”
Because his ideology was very awkward to Zaidis in Sa’ada and other places around the country, only 150 people followed him and believed in his ideology. He ordered his followers to refuse all Zaidi books and scholars. Hussein once told his followers, “We need to be like Taliban. They force people to follow their beliefs and those who go against them get killed, Ezan quotes Hussein Al-Houthi to have said.”
Even though much of what Ezan said about Hussein Al-Houthi was negaitive, he said that Hussein was a polite, kind, generous, warm hearterd and caring person. He felt that Hussein deserved the respect he was given by others. However, this respect went over the limits as guests were not allowed to shake his hand and used to wait days before meeting him. This made people think of him as a holy and great person. They pictured him like the prophet, and it was an honor to sit and meet him. Guests acted with complete humbleness.
During the first war, only 5% of the Believing Youth followed him and fought with him against the government.
Even though Hussien is dead, his followers believe that he is still alive and are awaiting the time he comes back to lead them.
After the government defeated Hussein Al-Houthi in the first Sa’ada war, it attacked all Believing Youth followers. They were harassed, beaten, attacked, imprisoned, and suspected. This was the main reason why many people went against the government. They felt that they were considered enemies by the government which gave them no other option but to join the Houhtis. In other words, they used all mistakes of the government to their benefit. All teachers in Sa’ada were also suspected. Every citizen was suspected, which in return turned the entire governorate against the government.
Over 3000 people were imprisoned over suspicion that they followed the Houthi while they didn’t. Over 40,000 houses were destroyed by governmental raids. The government was the main reason for Houthis to become strong in Sa’ada.
ABOUT Yemen Post Publisher & Chief Editor:
Hakim Almasmari is an American journalist and Middle East expert based in Sana'a, Yemen. His work has appeared for many of the worlds top media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Washington Post, AlJazeera, Fox News, The Guardian, The National, USA Today among numerous others. He has also worked with some of the world’s top organizations. Reporting out of Yemen for nearly eight years, he is the current editor in chief for the Yemen Post. He is a university lecturer in the field of international media and also studied business and law. Considered one of the top experts on Yemen, Almasmari has closely worked with international strategic centers and think tanks helping them better understand Yemen. He is a frequent guest on many international TV outlets discussing current local and international affairs. Almasmari's ancestors are from Yemen, and was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. His mother tongue is English and is fluent in Arabic.