Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Houthi movement has asked for tribal arbitration in its dispute with the country’s powerful Al-Ahmar tribe, after Houthi fighters carried out raids of homes and property belonging to the head of the tribe and other prominent members in the southern Amran province this week.
A tribal source from Amran, who requested anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat the Shi’ite group feared “tribal acts of revenge” in response for the recent targeting of members of the prominent Sunni tribe.
The source added that the original raids had come as a response to the Al-Ahmar tribe’s support for Houthi rivals, Al-Islah, the Yemeni wing of the international Muslim Brotherhood organization. Talks between the Shi’ite Houthi militia and the Sunni-led Al-Islah political party broke down this month, with Islah describing the Houthis’ continuing advance across northern and central parts of Yemen as a “provocation.”
Tribal arbitration is a common method used to settle disputes between large factions, families, or tribes in the country. Seeking arbitration during a dispute is traditionally seen as an admission of wrongdoing.
Representatives from the Houthi movement will now meet with the heads of the Al-Ahmar tribe in the presence of a third party chosen by the group—the heads of tribes from the country’s northern region, a Yemeni political source told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Yemen is currently in the midst of a political storm, with the Houthis’ attempting to gain a stronghold in the country’s central and northern regions and the Southern secessionist Al-Hirak movement calling for the reinstatement of the state of South Yemen and the partitioning of the country.
In January, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, a Gulf-led initiative to map out Yemen’s political future following former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s stepping down from power in 2012, stipulated the country be split into six federal regions.
The Houthis, however, reject the country’s partition, which they claim was later canceled during the Peace and Cooperation agreement signed in September between the group and President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi after its members stormed the capital Sana’a following a month-long series of mass sit-ins and protests.
One of Al-Hirak’s leaders, Abdul Rahman Shu’i Hagri, told Asharq Al-Awsat the movement’s demands for an autonomous southern region were secured in the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, and that it will “not bow down to pressures from any group or political power” that sought to sabotage this.