Unprecedented numbers of Yemenis took part in the anti-Saudi demonstrations on the fourth anniversary of the war in Yemen this year, indicating a growing opposition to the Saudi-led presence in their country.
SANA’A, YEMEN — Massive demonstrations took place across Yemen’s major cities on Tuesday to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Saudi-led war on the country. The war ostensibly began on March 26, 2015, when Saudi Arabia, backed by the U.S. and other regional allies, launched a large-scale attack on Yemen under the pretext of reinstating ousted former president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The war’s real purpose was to defeat the Houthi Ansar Allah movement, which gained popular support following the Arab Spring and has grown even more powerful since the Saudi war began.
Massive rallies throughout the country
In Yemen’s capital city of Sana`a, where the largest demonstrations took place, hundreds of thousands of residents from the suburbs of Sana`a and its neighboring provinces gathered in the southern al Sabaeen district carrying Yemeni flags and holding banners emblazoned with messages of steadfastness, promises to challenge to the Saudi-led Coalition, and pledges of resistance against foreign forces in Yemen.
In the Sada’a province in northern Yemen, hundreds of thousands also took to the streets despite an ever-present hovering of Saudi warplane above. The Saudi air presence began two days ago as residents started their preparations for the upcoming rallies. The demonstrations were organized primarily by the Houthis, the main force battling the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen. Large rallies also took place in the provinces of Hodeida, Ibb, Ta`ze, al-Jawf, Reimah and Dhamar.
The number of people who took part in the demonstrations dwarfed similar rallies that took place in previous years, indicating a growing opposition to the Saudi-led Coalition war in Yemen. Anti-Saudi demonstrations were also held for the first time in the northwest province of Hajjah and the central province of al-Beidha.
Images of demonstrations show a sea of Yemeni flags, posters bearing pictures of Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi and the slogan, “Four years of aggression — We are steadfast for the fifth year — We will win.” A protest leader in Sana`a’s Sabaeen Square rallied the crowd, chanting, “I am ready to make more sacrifices against the Saudi-led Coalition.”
Security was tight across Yemeni cities where the protests were held, as reports circulated that Saudi-allied mercenary groups were planning attacks on demonstrators. Police carried out special measures to ensure security, including the banning of large trucks from central Sana`a and the establishment of additional checkpoints in the Yemeni capital and throughout Yemen’s provinces.
A message of warning and defiance
Mohammed Ali al Houthi, a member of the Supreme Political Council, was among the keynote speakers at the rally in Sana`a, where he addressed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, promising that Yemenis will win the war against the Saudi-led Coalition regardless of how much support the U.S. gives them.
Pompeo released a statement last Thursday in which he said the Houthis could not win in Yemen and that they are operating at the behest of Iran, specifically the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps. Al Houthi resoundingly rejected these claims in his speech to demonstrators. He told a cheering crowd: “Yemenis will continue fighting to the end and [we] will never give in. We will finally defeat the enemy.” He further condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision on Monday to formally recognize Syria’s occupied Golan Heights as “Israeli territory.”
The Grand Mufti of Yemen, Shams al-Din Sharaf al-Din — the highest religious authority in Yemen — also addressed demonstrators. Sharaf al-Din called on the Muslim religious scholars and the wider Muslim world not to remain silent in the face of atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen.
In a live televised speech commemorating the fourth anniversary of the war on Monday evening, ِAbdulMalik al Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, warned the Saudi-led Coalition against launching a new military campaign in Hodeida and promised that the response to such an attack would extend beyond Yemen’s borders to any country backing the Saudi Coalition.
Four years that have not gone as planned
On March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies launched a military campaign against the poorest country in the Arab world without prior warning and with promises that the war would last no longer than a few weeks. However, after four years of a war that has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and is backed by the collective military might of the world’s most powerful nations, the Saudi Coalition has been unable to defeat the Houthis, nor to restore the popularly-ousted Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power.
The Saudi-led Coalition, on the fourth anniversary of the war it began, launched airstrikes against a rural hospital in the Kattaf district of Sada’a, killing eight civilians and injuring eight others.
The Houthis, who comprise a major component of Yemen’s resistance to Saudi interference in their country, show no sign of surrender and still control Yemen’s capital city of Sana`a and large swaths of the country.
Top Photo | A man attends a demonstration in Sabaeen Square in Sana`a where mass demonstrations were held on the fourth anniversary of the Saudi-led war on the Yemen, March 26, 2019. Photo | Ansarallah Media Center
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.