Terrorist Groups


Established In: 1994

Established By: Hussein al-Houthi

Also Known As: Ansar Allah; ANSARALLAH; Houthi; Houthi Group; PARTISANS OF GOD; SUPPORTERS OF GOD;

Country Of Origin: Yemen

Leaders: Abdul-Malik al-Houthi

Key Members: Mohammed Abdul Salam

Operational Area: Yemen

Number Of Members: 200,000

Involved In: Armed attacks

Connected With:

  • GFATF LLL Mohammed Ali al-Houthi Mohammed Ali al-Houthi Yemeni political figure who is the former President of the… [+]
  • GFATF LLL Said al-Jamal Sa’id al-Jamal Sa’id al-Jamal, an Iran-based Houthi financial supporter, directs a network… [+]
  • GFATF LLL Yahya Saree Yahya Saree Military spokesman/Information Minister for Yemen's Houthi movement (Ansar Allah). [+]

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General Info:

The Houthi movement (/ˈhuːθi/; Arabic: الحوثيون al-Ḥūthiyūn [al.ħuː.θi.juːn]), officially known as Ansar Allah[a] (أنصار الله ʾAnṣār Allāh, lit. ’Supporters of God’), is a Shia Islamist political and military organization that emerged from Yemen in the 1990s. It is predominantly made up of Zaidi Shias, with their namesake leadership being drawn largely from the Houthi tribe.

Under the leadership of Zaidi religious leader Hussein al-Houthi, the Houthis emerged as an opposition movement to Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they accused of corruption and being backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. In 2003, influenced by the Lebanese Shia political and military organization Hezbollah, the Houthis adopted their official slogan against the United States, Israel, and the Jews. Al-Houthi resisted Saleh’s order for his arrest, and was afterwards killed by the Yemeni military in Saada in 2004, sparking the Houthi insurgency. Since then, the movement has been mostly led by his brother Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.

The organization took part in the Yemeni Revolution of 2011 by participating in street protests and coordinating with other Yemeni opposition groups. They joined Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference but later rejected the 2011 reconciliation deal. In late 2014, the Houthis repaired their relationship with Saleh, and with his help they took control of the capital city. The takeover prompted a Saudi-led military intervention to restore the internationally recognized government, leading to an ongoing civil war which included missile and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia and its ally United Arab Emirates. Following the outbreak of the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, the Houthis began to fire missiles at Israel and to attack ships off Yemen’s coast in the Red Sea, which they say is in solidarity with the Palestinians and aiming to facilitate entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

The Houthi movement attracts followers in Yemen by portraying themselves as fighting for economic development and the end of the political marginalization of Zaidi Shias, as well as by promoting regional political–religious issues in its media. The Houthis have a complex relationship with Yemen’s Sunnis; the movement has discriminated against Sunnis but has also allied with and recruited them. The Houthis aim to govern all of Yemen and support external movements against the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Because of the Houthis’ ideological background, the conflict in Yemen is widely seen as a front of the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy war.


The Houthi movement follows a mixed ideology with religious, Yemeni nationalist, and big tent populist tenets, imitating Hezbollah. Outsiders have argued that their political views are often vague and contradictory and that many of their slogans do not accurately reflect their aims. According to researcher Bernard Haykel, the movement’s founder Hussein al-Houthi was influenced by a variety of different religious traditions and political ideologies, making it difficult to fit him or his followers into existing categories. The Houthis have portrayed themselves as national resistance, defending all Yemenis from outside aggression and influences, as champions against corruption, chaos, and extremism, and as representative for the interests of marginalized tribal groups and the Zayidi sect.

Haykel argues that the Houthi movement has two central religious-ideological tenets. The first is the “Quranic Way”, and which encompasses the belief that the Quran does not allow for interpretation and contains everything needed to improve Muslim society. The second is the belief in the absolute, divine right of Ahl al-Bayt (Prophet’s descendants) to rule, a belief attributed to Jaroudism, a fundamentalist offshoot of Zaydism.

The group has also exploited the popular discontent over corruption and reduction of government subsidies. According to a February 2015 Newsweek report, Houthis are fighting “for things that all Yemenis crave: government accountability, the end to corruption, regular utilities, fair fuel prices, job opportunities for ordinary Yemenis and the end of Western influence”. In forging alliances, the Houthi movement has been opportunistic, at times allying with countries it later declared its enemy such as the United States.

Women’s rights and freedom of expression

The Houthis’ treatment of women and their restrictions on the arts has been subject of debate. On one side, the movement has stated that it defends women’s rights to vote and take public offices, and some feminists have fled from government-held areas into Houthi territories as the latter at least disempower more radical jihadists. The Houthis field their own women security force and have a Girl Scouts wing. However, it has been also been reported that Houthis harass women and restrict their freedoms of movement and expression.

In regards to culture, the Houthis try to spread their views through propaganda using mainstream media, social media, and poetry as well as the “Houthification” of the education system to “instil Huthi values and mobilise the youth to join the fight against the coalition forces”. However, the Houthis have been inconsistent in regards how to deal with forms of artistic expression which they disapprove of. The movement has allowed radio stations to continue broadcast music and content which the Houthis view as too Western, but also banned certain songs and harassed artists such as wedding musicians. In one instance which generated much publicity, Houthi policemen conditioned that music could be played at a wedding party if it was not broadcast by loadspeakers. When the party guests did not conform to this demand, the main wedding singer was arrested. Journalist Robert F. Worth stated that “many secular-minded Yemenis seem unsure whether to view the Houthis as oppressors or potential allies.” In general, the Houthis’ policies are often decided on a local basis, and high-ranking Houthi officials are often incapable of checking regional officers’ powers, making the treatment of civilians dependent on the area.


– Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi – former leader (killed 2004)
– Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi – leader
– Yahia Badreddin al-Houthi – senior leader
– Abdul-Karim Badreddin al-Houthi – high-ranking commander
– Badr Eddin al-Houthi – spiritual leader (died 2010)
– Abdullah al-Ruzami – former military commander
– Abu Ali Abdullah al-Hakem al-Houthi – military commander
– Saleh Habra – political leader
– Fares Mana’a – Houthi-appointed governor of Sa’dah, and former head of Saleh’s presidential committee

Naval warfare capabilities

In course of the Yemeni Civil War, the Houthis developed tactics to combat their opponents’ navies. At first, their anti-ship operations were unsophisticated and limited to rocket-propelled grenades being shot at vessels close to the shore. In the fight to secure the port city of Aden in 2015, the Yemeni Navy was largely destroyed, including all missile-carrying vessels. A number of smaller patrol craft, landing craft, and Mi-14 and Ka-28 ASW helicopters did survive. Their existence under Houthi control would be brief, as the majority of them were destroyed in air attacks during the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in 2015. As a result, the Houthis were left with AShMs (anti-ship missiles) stored ashore, but no launchers, and a smattering of small patrol ships. These, along with a number of locally manufactured small craft and miscellaneous vessels, were to form the foundation of the new naval warfare capabilities.

Soon after the Houthis took over Yemen in 2015, Iran sought to strengthen the Houthis’ naval capabilities, allowing the Houthis, and thus Iran, to intercept Coalition shipping off the Red Sea coast, by providing additional AShMs and constructing truck-based launchers that could easily be hidden after a launch. Iran also anchored the Saviz intelligence vessel, disguised as a regular cargo vessel, off the coast of Eritrea, that provided intelligence and updates on Coalition ship movements to the Houthis. The Saviz served in this capacity until it was damaged in an Israeli limpet mine attack in April 2021, when it was replaced by the Behshad. The Behshad, like the Saviz, is based on a cargo ship.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, the Houthis, presumably with the assistance of Iranian engineers, converted a number of 10-meter-long patrol craft donated by the UAE to the Yemeni Coast Guard in the early 2010s into WBIEDs (water born improvised explosive devices). In 2017, one of these was used to attack the Saudi frigate Al Madinah. In the years since, three more WBIED designs have been built: the Tawfan-1, Tawfan-2, and Tawfan-3. 15 different types of naval mines were also produced. These are being increasingly deployed in the Red Sea, but have yet to be successful against naval vessels. The delivery of 120 km-ranged Noor and 200 km-ranged Qader AShMs, 300 km-ranged Khalij Fars ASBMs, and Fajr-4CL and “Al-Bahr Al-Ahmar” anti-ship rockets by Iran, which were unveiled during a 2022 Houthi parade, was arguably the most significant escalation in support. They combine long range, low cost, and high mobility with various types of guidance to create a weapon well-suited to the Houthi Navy.

Though the Houthis’ ASBM arsenal has yet to be tested, the Houthi Navy has had notable success with AShMs. On October 1, 2016, it was able to hit the UAE Navy’s HSV-2 Swift hybrid catamaran with a single C-801/C-802 AShM fired from a shore battery. Although the ship managed to stay afloat, the damage was so severe that it had to be decommissioned. The US Navy then sent two destroyers and an amphibious transport dock to the area to ensure that shipping could continue unabated. These vessels were then attacked with AShMs on three separate occasions, with no success.

Though these attacks demonstrated the Houthis’ limited ability to threaten vessels in Yemen’s surrounding seas, the threat posed by them has since evolved significantly. Armed with a variety of anti-ship ballistic missiles and rockets that can be notoriously difficult to intercept and cover large areas, the next round of maritime clashes with the navies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the United States could have a completely different outcome. The Houthis have also hinted at using their extensive arsenal of loitering munitions against commercial shipping in the Red Sea, a tactic similar to recent Iranian tactics in the Persian Gulf.

Patrol boats were fitted with anti-tank guided missiles, about 30 coast-watcher stations were set up, disguised “spy dhows” were constructed, and the maritime radar of docked ships used to create targeting solutions for attacks. One of the most notable features of the Houthis’ naval arsenal became its remote-controlled drone boats which carry explosives and ram enemy warships. Among these, the self-guiding Shark-33 explosive drone boats originated as patrol boats of the old Yemeni coast guard. In addition, the Houthis have begun to train combat divers on the Zuqar and Bawardi islands.

Alleged Iranian and North Korean support

Such backing has been reported by diplomatic correspondents of major news outlets (e.g., Patrick Wintour of The Guardian), and has been the reported perspective of Yemeni governmental leaders militarily and politically opposing Houthi efforts (e.g., as of 2017, the UN-recognized, deposed Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who referred to the “Houthi rebels… as ‘Iranian militias'”.

The Houthis in turn accused the Saleh government of being backed by Saudi Arabia and of using Al-Qaeda to repress them. Under the next President Hadi, Gulf Arab states accused Iran of backing the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran denied this, and they were themselves backers of President Hadi. Despite confirming statements by Iranian and Yemeni officials in regards to Iranian support in the form of trainers, weaponry, and money, the Houthis denied reception of substantial financial or arm support from Iran. Joost Hiltermann of Foreign Policy wrote that whatever little material support the Houthis may have received from Iran, the intelligence and military support by US and UK for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition exceed that by many factors.

In April 2015, the United States National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan remarked that “It remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen”. Joost Hiltermann wrote that Iran does not control the Houthis’ decision-making as evidenced by Houthis’ flat rejection of Iran’s demand not to take over Sanaa in 2015. Thomas Juneau, writing in the journal, International Affairs, states that even though Iran’s support for Houthis has increased since 2014, it remains far too limited to have a significant impact in the balance of power in Yemen. The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft argues that Teheran’s influence over the movement has been “greatly exaggerated” by “the Saudis, their coalition partners (mainly the United Arab Emirates), and their [lobbyists] in Washington.”

A December 2009 cable between Sanaa and various intelligence agencies in the US diplomatic cables leak states that US State Dept. analysts believed the Houthis obtained weapons from the Yemeni black market and corrupt members of the Yemenis Republican Guard. On the edition of 8 April 2015 of PBS Newshour, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the US knew Iran was providing military support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, adding that Washington “is not going to stand by while the region is destabilised”.

Phillip Smyth of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told Business Insider that Iran views Shia groups in the Middle East as “integral elements to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)”. Smyth claimed that there is a strong bond between Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in Yemen. According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to Iran for ideological and religious education, and Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops, and these Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the Houthis to use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy.

To some commentators (e.g., Alex Lockie of Business Insider), Iran’s support for the revolt in Yemen is “a good way to bleed the Saudis”, a recognized regional and ideological rival of Iran. Essentially, from that perspective, Iran is backing the Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States whose aim is to maintain control of Yemen. The discord has led some commentators to fear that further confrontations may lead to an all-out Sunni-Shia war.

In early 2013, photographs released by the Yemeni government show the United States Navy and Yemen’s security forces seizing a class of “either modern Chinese- or Iranian-made” shoulder-fired, heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles “in their standard packaging”, missiles “not publicly known to have been out of state control”, raising concerns of Iran’s arming of the rebels. In April 2016, the U.S. Navy intercepted a large Iranian arms shipment, seizing thousands of AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and 0.50-caliber machine guns, a shipment described as likely headed to Yemen by the Pentagon. Based on 2019 reporting from The Jerusalem Post, the Houthis have also repeatedly used a drone nearly identical to Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company’s Ababil-T drone in strikes against Saudi Arabia. In late October 2023, Israel stated that it had intercepted a “surface-to-surface long-range ballistic missile and two cruise missiles that were fired by the Houthi rebels in Yemen”; per reporting from, this “was Israel’s first-ever operational use of the Arrow system for intercepting ballistic missiles since the war began”.

The continuing interceptions and seizures of weapons at sea, attributed to Iranian origins, is a matter tracked by the United States Institute of Peace.

North Korean involvement

In August 2018, Reuters reported that a confidential United Nations investigation had found the North Korean government had failed to discontinue its nuclear and missile delivery programs, and in conjunction, was “cooperating militarily with Syria” and was “trying to sell weapons to Yemen’s Houthis”.

In January 2024, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that North Korea had evidently shipped weapons to Houthis via Iran, based on the writings in Hangul script that were found on missiles launched towards Israel.

Iranian IRGC involvement

In 2013, an Iranian vessel was seized and discovered to be carrying Katyusha rockets, heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, RPG-7s, Iranian-made night vision goggles and artillery systems that track land and navy targets 40 km away. That was en route to the Houthis.

In March 2017, Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, met with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to look for ways to what was described as “empowering” the Houthis. Soleimani was quoted as saying, “At this meeting, they agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support.” Despite the Iranian government, and Houthis both officially denying Iranian support for the group. Brigadier General Ahmad Asiri, the spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition told Reuters that evidence of Iranian support was manifested in the Houthi use of Kornet anti-tank guided missiles which had never been in use with the Yemeni military or with the Houthis and that the arrival of Kornet missiles had only come at a later time. In the same month the IRGC had altered the routes used in transporting equipment to the Houthis by spreading out shipments to smaller vessels in Kuwaiti territorial waters in order to avoid naval patrols in the Gulf of Oman due to sanctions imposed, shipments reportedly included parts of missiles, launchers, and drugs.

In May 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s IRGC, which was also listed as a designated terrorist organization by the US over its role in providing support for the Houthis, including help with manufacturing ballistic missiles used in attacks targeting cities and oil fields in Saudi Arabia.

In August 2018, despite previous Iranian denial of military support for the Houthis, IRGC commander Nasser Shabani was quoted by the Iranian Fars News Agency as saying, “We (IRGC) told Yemenis [Houthi rebels] to strike two Saudi oil tankers, and they did it”, on 7 August 2018. In response to Shabani’s account, the IRGC released a statement saying that the quote was a “Western lie” and that Shabani was a retired commander, despite no actual reports of his retirement after 37 years in the IRGC, and media linked to the Iranian government confirming he was still enlisted with the IRGC. Furthermore, while the Houthis and the Iranian government have previously denied any military affiliation, Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei openly announced his “spiritual” support of the movement in a personal meeting with the Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam in Tehran, in the midst of ongoing conflicts in Aden in 2019.

In 2024, commanders from IRGC and Hezbollah were reported to be actively involved on the ground in Yemen, overseeing and directing Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, according to a report by Reuters.

Alleged Iranian and North Korean support

According to the Panel of Experts on Yemen established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2140, the Houthis have carried out a wide range of human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian law and abuse of women and children. Children as young as 13 have been arrested for “indecent acts” for alleged homosexual orientation or “political cases” when their families do not comply with Houthi ideology or regulations. Minors share cells with adult prisoners, and according to credible reports[which?], boys held in Al-Shahid Al-Ahmar police station in Sana’a are systematically raped.

The houthi movement has been accused of restoring slavery in Yemen.

Child soldiers and human shields

Houthis have been accused of violations of international humanitarian law such as using child soldiers, shelling civilian areas, forced evacuations and executions. According to Human Rights Watch, Houthis intensified their recruitment of children in 2015. The UNICEF mentioned that children with the Houthis and other armed groups in Yemen comprise up to a third of all fighters in Yemen. Human Rights Watch has further accused Houthi forces of using landmines in Yemen’s third-largest city of Taizz which has caused many civilian casualties and prevent the return of families displaced by the fighting. HRW has also accused the Houthis of interfering with the work of Yemen’s human rights advocates and organizations.

In 2009, HRW researcher Christoph Wilcke said that although the Republic of Yemen Government accused the Houthis of using civilians as human shields, HRW did not have enough evidence to conclude that the Houthis were intentionally doing so but Wilcke admitted there may have been cases HRW was not able to document. Akram Al Walidi, one of four journalists detained by the Houthis on spying charges and then released in April 2023 as part of a prisoner exchange deal between the former and the internationally recognized government of Yemen, said he felt like the four were human shields after the Houthis moved them to one of their military camps at Sanaa in October 2020 since it was an expected target of Saudi airstrikes.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the Houthis also use hostage taking as a tactic to generate profit. Human Rights Watch documented 16 cases in which Houthi authorities held people unlawfully, in large part to extort money from relatives or to exchange them for people held by opposing forces

Diversion of international aid

The United Nations World Food Programme has accused the Houthis of diverting food aid and illegally removing food lorries from distribution areas, with rations sold on the open market or given to those not entitled to it. The WFP has also warned that aid could be suspended to areas of Yemen under the control of Houthi rebels due to “obstructive and uncooperative” Houthi leaders that have hampered the independent selection of beneficiaries. WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel stated “The continued blocking by some within the Houthi leadership of the biometric registration … is undermining an essential process that would allow us to independently verify that food is reaching … people on the brink of famine”. The WFP has warned that “unless progress is made on previous agreements we will have to implement a phased suspension of aid”. The Norwegian Refugee Council has stated that they share the WPF frustrations and reiterate to the Houthis to allow humanitarian agencies to distribute food.

Abuse of women and girls

The United Nations Human Rights Council published a report covering the period July 2019 to June 2020, which contained evidence of the Houthis’ recruitment of boys as young as seven years old and the recruitment of 34 girls aged between 13 and 17 years of age, to act as spies, recruiters of other children, guards, medics, and members of a female fighting force. Twelve girls suffered sexual violence, arranged marriages, and child marriages as a result of their recruitment.

Under Houthi controlled areas women have been blocked from travelling without a mahram (male guardian) even for essential healthcare. This also affected humanitarian operations by the United Nations in Yemen forcing female staff to office jobs. The Houthis use allegations of prostitution as a tool for public defamation against Yemeni women including those in the diaspora engaged in politics, civil society or human rights activism alongside threats to individuals and families. Women in detention are sexually assaulted and have been subjected to virginity tests and are often blocked from access to essential goods. Torture of female detainees is also carried out by the Zaynabiyat, the Female police wing of the Houthis.

UN Panel of Experts on Yemen discovered instances of Houthi rape of female detainees to “purify” them, as a punishment, or to coerce confessions. The Panel documented cases where Houthis forced detained women to become sex workers that also collect information for the Houthis. Documented instances include in 2021 where a female detainee was forced to have sexual intercourse with multiple men at Houthi detention centers as part of her preparation to be forced as a sex worker for important clients while also obtaining information. The Panel also received information of another detainee who was forced to become a prostitute to gather information for the Houthis in return for their release and another similar instance had been documented in 2019. This have also resulted in women who had been detained by Houthis being ostracized by society and one instance where the woman was killed by her family for bringing shame upon the family.

Anadolu Agency reported of Yemen-based rights groups documenting 1,181 violations against women committed by Houthis from 2017 to 2020. Yemeni activist Samira Abdullah al-Houry was held in a Houthi jail for three months and gave numerous interviews after her release on alleged torture and rape by Houthi guards. Her testimony contributed to UN Security Council sanctions being imposed on two Houthi security officials in February 2021. It was later alleged that she admitted some of her testimony was untrue and she had embellished claims at the request of Saudi officials.

Abuse of LGBTI people

According to Amnesty International on 9 February 2024, two Houthi-run courts in Yemen sentenced 48 individuals either to death, flogging or prison over charges related to same-sex conduct in the past month.
Abuse of migrants

According to Human Rights Watch, Houthi militias have “beaten, raped, and tortured detained migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa.”[276] UN experts have warned that female migrants face sexual violence, forced labor, and forced drug trafficking by smugglers who collaborate with the Houthi-controlled Yemen Immigration, Passport and Nationality Authority (IPNA).