Commander vows to coerce Yemeni tribes to fight alongside Houthis

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A prominent Houthi commander vowed in a television interview to coerce all tribes in Yemen to fight alongside the Iran-backed militia, threatening to use them as human shields if they refuse recruitment.

“We will forcefully recruit them … and those who refuse to fight will be used as human shields,” Daifallah Rassam said in an interview with al-Lahtha television aired in mid-February.

The leader of the Houthi Tribal Cohesion Council was reported to have died in 2018 but re-appeared in this February 13 interview.

Social media users were appalled by the shockingly harsh statement the leader made.

“It’s mind-boggling how these people turned 180 degrees against their country,” Abdulmuhsen al-Ajaji said.

“No tribe would ever succumb to this,” Dafaf al-Madi said.

Fatima al-Asrar, a non-resident scholar at Middle East Institute told Al Arabiya English that “tribes that are in areas under Houthis’ control find it difficult to confront the Houthis because they are not equipped with the same level of sophisticated artillery that Houthis have, such as the anti-guided tank missiles, the ballistic missiles or drones.”

Al-Asrar also explained that “if they [tribes] do not share a common purpose and goal with the Houthis, they are most likely either enticed or coerced” – something Rassam confirmed as a regular technique in the interview.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia has been fighting against the UN-recognized government of Yemen, backed by the Arab Coalition, since 2015.

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