Abdul-Malik al-Houthi is the military, spiritual, and political leader of the Houthis in Yemen.“Yemen’s Abd-al-Malik al-Houthi,” BBC News, October 3, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/monitoring/yemens-abd-almalik-alhouthi;
Tom Finn, “Abdel-Malek Al-Houthi: from Shadow Rebel Leader to Kingmaker,” Middle East Eye, September 26, 2014, http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/abdel-malek-al-houthi-shadow-rebel-leader-kingmaker-988988591. He has served as the group’s military leader since 2004, when then-military leader Hussein Badr-al-Din al-Houthi—Abdul-Malik’s brother—was killed by Yemeni security forces.Tom Finn, “Abdel-Malek Al-Houthi: from Shadow Rebel Leader to Kingmaker,” Middle East Eye, September 26, 2014, http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/abdel-malek-al-houthi-shadow-rebel-leader-kingmaker-988988591. Badr-al-Din—Abdul-Malik’s father—remained the group’s spiritual and political head until his death in 2010, at which point Abdul-Malik al-Houthi became the group’s leader in every regard.“Yemen’s Abd-al-Malik al-Houthi,” BBC News, October 3, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/monitoring/yemens-abd-almalik-alhouthi.
Since assuming military control over the Houthis in 2004, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi has commanded the Iranian-backed rebel group through numerous cycles of conflict with the Yemeni military.Ahmed Mamdouh, “Abdul Malik Al Houthi: The Shiite Thorn on Yemen’s Side,” AlBawaba (Egypt), March 25, 2015, http://www.albawabaeg.com/52258. He became the commander in charge of negotiations with the Yemeni government in 2007.“Yemen’s Abd-al-Malik al-Houthi,” BBC News, October 3, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/monitoring/yemens-abd-almalik-alhouthi. Following the Arab Spring in 2011, Houthi shifted his rhetoric from rants disparaging the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to speeches that appealed to a broad range of Yemeni citizens. His popularity grew as he began to criticize high gasoline prices and Saudi drone strikes.Tom Finn, “Abdel-Malek al-Houthi: from shadow rebel leader to kingmaker,” Middle East Eye, last modified February 13, 2015, http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/abdel-malek-al-houthi-shadow-rebel-leader-kingmaker-988988591.
In September 2014, the Houthis—under Houthi’s leadership—attempted to overthrow the Sanaa-based government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour. In order to quell the violent protests and Houthi blockades in the capital, the government chose to consult with the rebels in appointing new government officials.Shuaib Almosawa, “U.N. Reports Yemen Deal With Rebels,” New York Times, September 20, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/world/middleeast/peace-talks-with-rebels-falter-in-yemen.html. In November 2014, Hadi announced a new list of government ministers that included Houthi officials and supporters.“Yemen’s President Forms a New Government,” Stratfor, November 17, 2014, https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/yemens-president-forms-new-government. However, the Houthis rejected the proposed government structure, disapproving of certain appointees who had served in previous governments.“Yemen’s President Forms a New Government,” Stratfor, November 17, 2014, https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/yemens-president-forms-new-government.
In January 2015, the Houthis overthrew Hadi’s government in Sanaa, seizing government buildings and the presidential palace. The group put Hadi and his cabinet under house arrest, demanding their resignations.“Yemen’s Houthis form own government in Sanaa,” Al Jazeera, February 6, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/02/yemen-houthi-rebels-announce-presidential-council-150206122736448.html. The next month, the Houthis replaced Hadi’s parliament with their interim government, the Supreme Revolutionary Committee (SRC).Rod Nordland, “Rebels in Yemen Say They Intend to Form a New Government,” New York Times, February 6, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/world/middleeast/yemen-rebels-say-they-will-dissolve-parliament.html?_r=1. By the spring of 2015, the Houthis controlled 16 Yemeni provinces in north and northwest Yemen.”Mapping the Yemen Conflict,” European Council on Foreign Relations, accessed October 26, 2016, http://www.ecfr.eu/mena/yemen. The United States and the United Nations imposed sanctions on Houthi on April 14, 2015, for threatening Yemen’s stability.“Security Council Demands End to Yemen Violence, Adopting Resolution 2216 (2015), with Russian Federation Abstaining,” United Nations, April 14, 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc11859.doc.htm;
“Treasury Sanctions Instigators of the Violent Takeover of Yemen,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, April 14, 2015, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl10021.aspx.
Houthi reportedly maintains a guarded lifestyle, moving regularly between safe-houses and refusing most interviews due to safety concerns.Tom Finn, “Abdel-Malek al-Houthi: from shadow rebel leader to kingmaker,” Middle East Eye, last modified February 13, 2015, http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/abdel-malek-al-houthi-shadow-rebel-leader-kingmaker-988988591. He is notorious among analysts and journalists for his insistence on privacy.“Abdel-Malek al-Houthi: provincial rebel turned Yemen powerbroker,” Reuters, January 21, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-houthi-idUSKBN0KU1MF20150121.
On January 19, 2021, the U.S. State Department designated the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO),“Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism, https://www.state.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations/; Lara Jakes, “U.S. to Declare Yemen’s Houthis a Terrorist Group, Raising Fears of Fueling a Famine,” New York Times, January 10, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/10/us/politics/us-yemen-houthis-terrorist-group.html?searchResultPosition=2. and declared Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and two other Houthi leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.Robert Edwards, “How Yemen’s Houthis’ Well-Deserved Terrorist Label Gives Biden Important Leverage,” Arab News, January 21, 2021, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1796401/middle-east. On February 16, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reversed his predecessor’s course and revoked the Houthis designation. However, he announced that Houthi and the two other leaders would remain sanctioned under Executive Order 13611 for acts “that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen.”Antony J. Blinken, “Revocation of the Terrorist Designations of Ansarallah,” U.S. Department of State, February 12, 2021, https://www.state.gov/revocation-of-the-terrorist-designations-of-ansarallah/.
On June 21, 2021, Houthi made a commitment to an Omani delegation to enter into ceasefire discussions with the Saudi-led coalition immediately after the blockade on Houthi-held ports is lifted.Aziz Yaakoubi, “End of Yemen quagmire? Saudi-led coalition, Houthis near peace deal,” Reuters, June 21, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/end-yemen-quagmire-saudi-led-coalition-houthis-near-peace-deal-2021-06-21/.
On August 25, 2021, Yemen’s military court labeled the Houthis a terrorist organization. The court also sentenced Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and 173 others to death by firing squad for staging a military coup against the government and committing military offences and war crimes.“Yemen court sentences Houthi leader, 173 others to death,” Middle East Monitor, August 27, 2021, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210827-yemen-court-sentences-houthi-leader-173-others-to-death/.
- Extremist entity
- Type(s) of Organization:
- Insurgent, religious, social services provider, territory-controlling, violent
- Ideologies and Affiliations:
- Arab nationalist, jihadist, Islamist, Shiite, Zaidi
- Spiritual, military, and political leader; brother of founder Hussein Badr-al-Din al-Houthi
The Houthis are an Iranian-backed, Shiite Muslim armed religious and political movement in Yemen. The Houthis waged a series of bloody insurgencies against the Yemeni government for over a decade, leading to that regime’s overthrow in 2015.
- June 9, 2015
United Kingdom—the United Kingdom designated “Abdulmalik Al-Houthi” on June 9, 2015.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” Office of Financial Sanctions Implementations HM Treasury, last updated February 28, 2023, https://ofsistorage.blob.core.windows.net/publishlive/2022format/ConList.html.
- April 14, 2015
The U.N. Security Council designated “Abdulmalik al-Houthi” on April 14, 2015, imposing an asset freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo.Security Council, “Security Council Demands End to Yemen Violence, Adopting Resolution 2216 (2015), with Russian Federation Abstaining,” United Nations, April 14, 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc11859.doc.htm.
- April 14, 2015
The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Abdul Malik al-Houthi” as a Specially Designated National (SDN) on April 14, 2015.“Treasury Sanctions Instigators of the Violent Takeover of Yemen,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, April 14, 2015, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl10021.aspx.January 19, 2021
The U.S. Department of State designated “Abdul Malik al-Houthi” as a Specially Designated Terrorist on January 19, 2021.“Terrorist Designation of Ansarallah in Yemen,” U.S. Department of State, January 10, 2021, https://www.state.gov/terrorist-designation-of-ansarallah-in-yemen/; “Issuance of Counter Terrorism General Licenses and related FAQs; Counter Terrorism Designations; Venezuela-related Designations; CAATSA - Russia-related Designations; Yemen-related Designations Updates,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 19, 2021, https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/recent-actions/20210119.