AIYS at MESA 2016

At the annual MESA conference, to be held in Boston from November 17-21 , AIYS has a sponsored panel as detailed below:

[P4302] Yemen: From Zaydi Revivalism to Huthi Expansionism

Created by Marieke Brandt
Saturday, 11/19/16 10:00am

SUMMARY:

Zaydism is a branch of Shia Islam which can look back on a millennium of continuity in the northern parts of Yemen. Since Zaydism is regarded as a particularly tolerant form of Islam, its coexistence with Yemen’s other denominations was historically largely unproblematic. About 25 years ago, however, a development started which substantially undermined the coexistence of denominations in Yemen. The increasing spread of radical Sunnism (Salafism and Wahhabism) in Yemen, funded by neighboring Saudi Arabia, as well as the economic and political neglect of large sections of the Zaydi north by the Salih regime has led to the emergence of a Zaydi revivalism movement which was inspired by a deep sense of peril. As a result, previously unknown divisions and fault lines between Sunni and Shiite denominations began to arise in Yemen.

In 2001 a group known as Ansar Allah or Huthis, taking their name from the family of a noted Zaydi scholar, splintered off the nascent Zaydi revival movement by schism. In 2004 the Salih regime entered into a brutal six-year war against the Huthis, creating a martyr with the killing of Husayn al-Huthi, a prominent critic of Salih’s regime. After the resignation of President Salih in 2012, the Huthis were able to conquer large parts of northern Yemen including the capital Sana’a which they seized in 2014 with the assistance of army troops still loyal to Salih. The military campaign against the Huthis carried out by a Saudi-led international alliance of Sunni states, which began in 2015, has eventually turned Yemen into a central crisis zone and humanitarian disaster in today’s globalizing world. Although very much a proxy war in the expanding sectarian rhetoric between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the ongoing war has turned Yemen into an internal struggle for power between numerous groups and ideologies.

The panel aims at elucidating historical roots and current aspects of both Zaydi revivalism and Huthi expansionism by the means and tools of a number of scholarly disciplines (religious studies, social anthropology, political science, and strategic studies). The panel focuses on Huthi struggles to demarcate a Zaydi identity in the Modern Middle East; the impact of the so called “Sa’dah Wars” which the Yemeni state waged against the Huthis from 2004 to 2010; Huthi politics of political alliances since 2011; and strategic aspects of Huthi expansionist ambitions in Yemen. Through considering this wide array of aspects, the panel aims to shed light on the often opaque transformations and developments of previous years and decades and thus to achieve a better understanding of current conflict in Yemen.

The panel will be chaired by Dan Varisco. Panelists are: