Religion |

Houthis impose ideology on state employees

By Abu Bakr al-Yamani in Sanaa

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Yemeni teachers attend a protest against the ongoing conflict and the suspension of their monthly salaries outside the UN offices in Sanaa on October 3rd, 2017. Government employees in Sanaa have been threatened with further loss of income if they do not attend mandatory 'cultural courses' instituted by the Houthis. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

In recent months, the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) have been forcing state employees in Sanaa and other parts of Yemen to attend mandatory "cultural courses" and lectures that promote the militia's sectarian ideology.

These courses were instituted each Wednesday, following a March 12th decree in which the Houthis' leadership ordered that weekly educational meetings be held for all employees in government ministries under their control.

According to the decree, the meetings and seminars are intended to ensure the ideological cohesion of ministerial employees and strengthen their steadfastness.

Employees of the Houthi-controlled ministries of communications and finance are among those who have been forced to abide by the decree.

Meanwhile, revenue-yielding agencies have ordered a stop to the disbursement of employee incentives unless they enroll in cultural and religious courses.

Mandatory lectures

Mohammed Saleh, human resources manager at a Sanaa ministry told Al-Mashareq the Houthis started holding "cultural courses" weeks ago for full-time employees in the ministry where he works and in affiliated agencies.

These courses and lectures are religious and cultural in nature, he said, and attendance has become mandatory for employees, who cannot avoid attending them if they are present in their workplace on a day when they are held.

Salma Ahmed, a ministry department head, told Al-Mashareq she received a text informing her that she needed to attend a one-week training course for female employees, and that attendees would be paid 1,000 Yemeni riyals ($4) per day.

"Some female employees agreed [to attend] for the 1,000 riyals to buy food for their children due to the difficult circumstances they are experiencing," she said.

"They took us away from our families for 12 days to take part in a cultural course," government employee Saleh Hizam told Al-Mashareq.

"Those who did not attend will be dropped from the next payroll and transportation allowance list, even though we have not been paid for 20 months and our situation is pitiful," he said.

Naji Mohammed, a ministry accounting department employee, told Al-Mashareq he does not attend the lectures and is not convinced of their merit.

They lay the foundation for the Houthis' ideology that is based on Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist), he explained.

"Many of those who attend these lectures are forced to do so, because otherwise they would be liable to lose the incentives they receive from tax revenues and to have their names dropped from future payrolls," he said.

Ideological indoctrination

"The ideological indoctrination of all segments and groups and civilian and military state employees is a very serious matter," media professional Rashad al-Sharaabi told Al-Mashareq.

"The Houthis have lost many of their indoctrinated fighters trained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran and by Hizbullah in Lebanon or in Saada under the supervision of Iranian and Lebanese experts," he said.

"They have lost much of the social and political cover extended to them by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was their partner until they betrayed and eliminated him, so they have resorted to such practices to mobilise the masses by subjecting them to ideological indoctrination and cultural courses."

The Yemeni people, who have been misled by the Houthis, "have become wise to their corruption, misuse of public funds and failure in administering state institutions", he said.

"Many are keeping their sons from joining the battlefronts as fighters with the militia, so the militia had to resort to holding such courses," al-Sharaabi said.

The Houthis' new directive is part of the group’s "obscurant approach", political affairs researcher Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq.

"It is a closed partisan group that fears the influence of the arts, literature and everything related to the freedom of thought on its members," he said.

"Extremist sectarian movements are similar in their actions, measures and positions, and even though their ideologies differ, the basic framework is one and the same, and the substance is one and the same," he noted.

"In order for these groups to protect their future and their centres of influence and control, they must shape the thinking of different generations," al-Jalil said.

"While they possess the military, security and intelligence power to establish control, they fear nonacceptance of their logic by the masses, so they work to establish and ingrain it in people’s minds through various means," he added.

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