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Yemen: Tensions between Houthis, government hinder National Dialogue - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Supporters of the Shi'ite Houthi rebel group march during a demonstration against a military shake-up, carried out by Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in Sana'a onApril 12, 2013. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Supporters of the Shi’ite Houthi rebel group march during a demonstration against a military shake-up, carried out by Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in Sana’a onApril 12, 2013. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tensions between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government are hindering the National Dialogue following controversy surrounding the alleged attempted storming of the country’s National Security Bureau [NSB] headquarters resulting in the deaths of protesters.

Pro-Houthi protesters’ recent attempt to storm Yemen’s intelligence agency headquarters and the resulting deaths of 13 demonstrators have raised tensions between the Shi’ite rebel group and the Yemeni authorities. This comes as the Houthis threatened to boycott the comprehensive National Dialogue in Yemen.

A Yemeni official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said: “[Houthis] are causing problems for the comprehensive National Dialogue by issuing statements and staging rallies every day; such activities are disturbing the second public session of the conference.”

Debate continues to rage in Yemen over the intelligence agency’s responsibility for killing ten protestors who had attempted to storm the agency’s headquarters. The protestors appeared to be linked with the Houthi group.

“The current alliance between the Houthis and the supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh is negatively affecting the National Dialogue. This is something that has prompted the creation of a law banning all sides from demonstrating outside the National Dialogue conference.”

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yasser Al-Raini, deputy secretary-general of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference, emphasized that demonstrations have not been completely banned.

He noted that demonstrations can be held after 1:30 p.m. outside the hall.

Al-Raini said: “We have come a long way and [entered] an important stage…. The conference began its second public session to discuss field reports prepared by [the conference’s] teams.”

“The people have sat down at the same negotiating table, and this is an important issue,” he added.

Raini stressed that all political factions in Yemen should realize that this is a stage where decisions must be taken to enable the Yemeni people to realize which of the political factions serve the people’s interests.

Thousands protested in the capital, Sana’a, on Thursday against alleged “excesses” by the security forces, calling for the overthrow of the president and national security apparatus.

The protests came during the funeral of 13 Shi’ite protesters who had been killed in clashes with the security apparatus last Sunday. The protesters had been calling for the release of political detainees.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Yemeni government to conduct a thorough investigation into Sunday’s incident and bring those responsible for the killings to trial.

HRW reported that “about five hundred supporters of the Houthis, a religious minority in northern Yemen that has fought against the government in recent years, had gathered outside the office of the NSB, one of the country’s intelligence agencies, to demand the release of 10 Houthis who have been detained for months without charge,” describing the protest as “an apparently peaceful demonstration.”

“The Yemeni security forces’ brutal response to the pro-Houthi demonstration suggests that President Hadi’s security reforms have had little impact,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“It is now up to the government to show that it can conduct a serious inquiry into this deadly episode and prosecute all those responsible for unlawful deaths and injuries,” she added.