Hassan al-Homran, spokesperson for Ansar Allah (Houthi political arm) discussed recent developments in Dammaj (city in the northern province of Sa’ada) earlier this week with the Yemen Post in an exclusive interview.
Ever since late October the Houthis and the Salafis have been enthralled in a bitter battle for control in Dammaj, prompting fear sectarian tension would derail Yemen transition of power and spur on yet more violence and bloodshed.
How is the situation in Sa’ada today?
For well over two months now Sa’ada has been subject to a blockade. As a result civilians have experienced much difficulty. We are lacking food, medicine and supplies. Women and children have most of all suffered the brunt of the blockade and violence as they stand trapped in Dammaj without any hope of escaping the fighting. The situation is tragic.
Why hasn't there been a ceasefire?
It is up to President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to ensure that the cease fire is implemented on the ground. So far the central government has failed on every account. The central government should take responsibility for its actions and prove more assertive in imposing its will over militias.
There are many wounded … on both sides, yet the Red Cross has failed to assist Ansar Allah and chosen instead to attend to the Salafis, painting a grim pictures of our tribesmen and militants. We condemn such double standard. The Red Cross is a humanitarian institution which should not dabble in politics. Ansar Allah was not given fair and equal access to medicine and supplies, this is not tolerable.
How many of the injured Salafis were foreigners?
Well the Red Cross managed to evacuate an estimated 106 casualties, most of them foreign nationals: Somalis, Ethiopians, Algerians, Russians, Americans, Europeans and men from East Asia. There are about 7000 foreigners at any given time in Dammaj from 72 different nationalities.
Salafis say that tens of children and women were injured in the Houthi raids on Dammaj?
Such allegations are fallacious. Factions are running a misinformation campaign against Ansar Allah. We have already established that al-Qaeda is also an enemy now… [reference made to al-Qaeda’s last week statement whereby the group pledged its fighters to the Salafis cause in Dammaj]
So we can call this a sectarian war?
No I would not say this conflict is sectarian, it is about first and foremost a political issue.
But we see sectarian slogans and not political ones when Dammaj war is talked about?
You have to understand that the Salafis movement is run by thugs who seek to promote hatred and fear. Their aim is to derail the National Dialogue Conference using whatever tools necessary. This is yet another method to distract the public from the real issue at hand.
Ansar Allah supports the establishment of a civil state in Yemen. We want to build a striving modern democracy. Our goals are to fulfil our people’s democratic aspirations in keeping with the Arab Spring movement.