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Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis have stepped up their attacks on commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea.

  • The Houthis, officially known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), are an armed religious and political movement in Yemen.
  • Houthis are Zaydi Shiites, or Zaydiyyah.
  • Shiite Muslims are the minority community in the Islamic world, and Zaydis are a minority of Shiites, significantly different in doctrine and beliefs from the Shiites who dominate in Iran, Iraq, and elsewhere.
  • They are a minority in Yemen, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, but they are a significant one, numbering in the hundreds of thousands and making up as much as a third of the overall population.
  • Its members advocate regional autonomy for Zaidis in northern Yemen.
  • They have been fighting Yemen’s Sunni-majority government since 2004.
  • The Houthis took over the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September 2014 and seized control over much of north Yemen by 2016.
  • The Houthi movement began as an effort to maintain tribal autonomy in northern Yemen and protest Western influence in the Middle East.
  • Today, the Houthis seek a greater role in the Yemeni government and continue to advocate for Zaidi minority interests.
  • The movement is known for its virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
  • Several of the group’s leaders have been designated as terrorists by the United States.