Houthis reeducate civil servants with "cultural courses"

This guest post comes to us from a trusted contact in Houthi-controlled San'a, and it represents the author's own opinions. The YPP has not been able to independently verify the incidents reported herein.

The Houthis have left no chapter of human rights law unviolated. They have committed all kinds of violations from murder, intimidation and torture against intellectual and political opponents as well as activists. In most cases, the violation of human rights is a forced and compulsory act of power or of arms. The Houthis have gone beyond attacking opponents and activists to peaceful citizens under their authority. People in the Houthi-controlled areas can no longer show any kind of resistance or rejection, even in their most basic culture and ideological rights. The Houthis are not as backward and ignorant as some think, but they are a group with extensive experience in sociology. Therefore, their behavior can not be random, but is rather very deliberate. The Houthis are a radical ideological organization, not only a political or social group. Consequently, the most important concern of this group is to control the faith of people and their values nd beliefs.

Sectarian and ideological control through indoctrination and ideological conversion represents the main purpose behind the behavior of this group, and this is called “brainwashing.” The Houthis have been exercising the traditional means of controlling people and turning their ideological and doctrinal tendencies to serve their own ends. Communist governments and extremist groups have used various means to control and transform peoples, one of which is “group lessons.” One example is the Chinese government’s reeducation method during the Cultural Revolution that started in 1966. The government’s goal was to instill the concepts and values of communism to replace capitalism. Similarly, the Houthis carry out so-called “cultural courses” which match most of the conditions of brainwashing. The purpose of these courses is to teach the Houthi doctrine and subject people to its beliefs. These courses are being enforced upon citizens; they take place in unknown venues, and can last from eight to ten days. During the “course,” the group being indoctrinated is isolated. During this period, the participants are subjected to severe psychological stress resulting from the sequence of lessons, which begin with the first morning hours and go until late at night.

The lessons conflict with common sense and the Yemeni people’s values and beliefs.  The successive lectures focus on the emergence of the Houthi movement as a religious group with a divine message that can not be overthrown, and that it is a promised group of divine victory and support. The Houthi movement does not hide in these lessons its opposition to all human aspects of civilization: they assert their rejection of democratic rule and the right of peoples to govern themselves by choosing their representatives and rulers. In its place, the Houthis place the concept of Welayah, as the divine right to rule, on the table. On the other hand, the Houthis do not hesitate to show their hostility to women's freedom and their right to exercise their social, political and economic rights and vow to apply a strict law that limits all these practices, similar to the Taliban's practice in Afghanistan. 

There have been suspicions that the Houthis practice sorcery and witchcraft to control their followers and put them on the front lines, especially children. Almost all people would argue this as an indisputable fact, after seeing unjustified behavior of young men and children. This is why people are initially afraid of the cultural courses when imposed by the Houthis on the state employees: for fear of the witchcraft. However, following the participation of many, it was found that these means were not used in the cultural courses, which were limited to teaching lessons and trying to convince participants of the mission of the Houthi movement, its proven victory and its future ambition. There are two types of "cultural courses": the first is mandatory, which is imposed on employees of government institutions, began with the high and middle leadership and has not yet reached the level of technical departments. The second type is optional; people are invited to attend them either willingly or sometimes for a small fee or a chewing qat session. The persons who attended the culture courses agree that this experience leaves an indelible effect on the participants. A very few participants were able to find a way out before the defined period of the course, some of them paid about half million Yemeni Rials to escape, others used the power of their Houthi relatives or friends.

One civil servant, N.S., described to me his experience. “We were taken in a bus with black films on the window panes, we could not find where we were going. It was in the evening, we arrived to a huge villa, then we were detained in the basement,” N.S. was compulsorily taken to this course. “We didn’t see the sunshine for eight consecutive days, the lectures ran since dawn until bedtime,” he added. He shook his head and said, “Oh my God, I would not believe this if I had not heard all this nonsense myself.” N.S. was left with a different impression of the Houthis than he went in with. “I thought the Houthis were Yemenis, but it turned out that this was not the case, they could not even be Muslims,” e said. “They are an extremist group, a gang, they are insane; they have told us they have been preparing for this since the 1960s, nothing will stand in front of them, they are promised of victory and they will rule the world from inside the White House. They told us that democracy is an alien Western thought, but the Welayah is what the nation should follow, no one has the right to govern except Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, he is the guardian of Allah….For those criminals, our souls, properties and money have no sanctity, they told us that after their victory over aggression there would be no options before people but either to be with them or against them, all opponents will be eliminated,” he said astonishingly. “What we were told was against common sense, in contrast to our beliefs and values; the pressure was so great that some of my colleagues suffered a nervous breakdown and were hospitalized, while some felt very confused and puzzled.” He took a deep breath and then wondered aloud, “What is waiting for us?! How can we get rid of this group?”

K.A. is another public employee; he narrated his experience with the culture courses differently: “They took us for ten days. The lessons were exhausting,” he said. “These fools think they can convince us of their strange thoughts.” He smiles and added, “I noticed that we shouted the Houthi slogan (sarkhah) too much. I decided to put a mark every time I shout, I wanted to know how many times I did it. At the end of the ten days I found that I shouted 1,028 times, what a great number! Perhaps this has caused a certain damage to my brain, as it did to my arms...Look at my right arm, it became longer because of the sarkhah, as I had to throw my arm firmly in the air,” he explained sarcastically. K.A spoke mockingly of the cultural courses all the time. “They wanted to drive us crazy. My colleague felt too much pressure, but he found a way out by not focusing on the lessons, he shared his secret with me: ‘Hey, do not pay attention to them, instead keep thinking of anything else, do not be focused, you will lose your mind,’” he added.

On the other hand, N.B. attended the courses willingly when his friend invited him to attend one. He went with his friend to know what was happening there. “Nothing but too much talk about Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, about the Welayah and the divine right to rule and so much shouting of the Houthi slogan.” he said. “I have never chewed qat nor shouted the sarkhah, so I did not shout then. My friend turned to me surprised and asked me: ‘why don’t you shout? Try it.’ I just answered him frankly: ‘I'm not convinced of it.’ My friend smiled at me and said: ‘I respect brave and honest men.’ I do not chew qat and I do not enjoy its gatherings, for this I apologized and left the place. I left wondering, do people really believe this nonsense?!”