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Opinion: The Houthis have opened Pandora’s Box | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Shi’ite Houthi rebels chant slogans as they ride in a pickup truck at the army’s First Armored Division compound after taking it over, in Sana’a, Yemen, on Monday, September 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

It was not just an isolated photograph or image, but a slew of videos that showed several fighters entering the homes—even bedrooms—of their enemies, which they proudly pillaged and plundered in front of the camera, on numerous occasions.

These fighters, restrained by no one, stood in the middle of the bedrooms in the homes they had stormed, taking photographs of themselves, and quickly uploading them onto their personal social network accounts.

Some of these shocking pictures posted online showed fighters belonging to the Houthi movement raiding the homes of a number of Al-Islah Party figures, bearing down with their weapons on whole families while chewing leaves of the psychoactive stimulant plant Qat. One of them even had time to take a photograph himself wearing a dress he found, while others went through private underwear cabinets belonging to the families, who quickly fled the Yemeni capital Sana’a after its takeover by the Houthis.

Even government and university buildings, media outlets, and security service facilities were not spared this destructive orgy of pillaging and theft. Nor were the depots dotted around the city which were used for vaccinating children against a multitude of diseases.

Sana’a is certainly not the first Arab capital or city to be violated in this manner. But what made the matter even worse was that while these citizens’ homes were being broken into and looted, with the accompanying pictures brandished proudly all over the Internet, numerous “opposition” media outlets throughout the region ran headlines such as “A revolution in Yemen” following the Houthis’ seizure of the capital. The pictures on the Internet, meanwhile, showed us the true, uncivilized face of this “revolution.” They showed us how Yemenis cowered in their homes, fearful and shocked to see the destruction of their country before their very eyes. They swapped laments on Facebook and Twitter about how far, and how quickly, the situation had deteriorated, interspersed with personal stories about what they had endured the last few days—all while the “opposition” media hailed the snowballing chaos which accompanied the “revolution” in Sana’a.

The way the Houthi takeover has been presented in the media as “completing the revolution” in Yemen is an obvious message of support for what is happening. It would be foolish to claim that things were much better in Yemen before the Houthis rolled into town, but the welcome extended by some to their takeover will cause even more crises for Yemen, its people, and the region as a whole.

There is no worse condemnation of the actions of this group than the one that came out of the mouth of the movement’s very own leader, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi. Attempting to defend what some members of his group had done, he asked us what we expected from them; they had not come from “Plato’s Ideal City,” after all. Inhabitants of Plato’s city they certainly were not, but neither are most members of the political class in Yemen. So if things were not much better before the Houthis’ takeover, it is clear Yemen has been suffering from deep-rooted weaknesses in its security services and economy, as well as from the collapse of its political system.

The images we saw were examples of the disintegration of Yemen and the civil war we could soon see, which will endanger every one of its citizens. These images, which showed us these aggressive scenes acted out by homegrown invaders, will have painful consequences from which it will take decades to recover. The pain caused by the Houthis who attacked Sana’a, storming the houses of their enemies along the way, will not be exorcised except with an equal and opposite reaction. This whirlpool of action, reaction and counter-reaction is one we’ve been caught up in before, one we know very well and have grown tired of—though it seems we haven’t learned anything from its many previous outbreaks.