Women's political participation in a Houthi-led Yemen

This presentation discusses the ways in which gender dynamics in Yemen have shaped and have been shaped by the Houthis between 2010-2020. The research is largely based on the fieldwork carried out in Sana’a (Yemen) between 2010-2013 and online interviews and document analysis afterwards. It focuses particularly on women’s political participation under the Houthi-led regime in Yemen. What kind of women’s participation has been encouraged by the Houthi regime? And for what purpose? On one hand, the nature and extent of women’s roles in the Houthi regime have been gradually changing over the past years to better respond to new challenges and needs related to war and state-building enterprises. Women have been granted more proactive roles on the battlefield against opposition fractions, in particular through the institution of Zeinabeyyat. On the other hand, Houthi’s interpretation of Zaydi Islamic values (disseminated in circulars and cultural programs) has become a source of a moral order imposed to all women living in the territory under their control. According to women’s rights activists, Houthi’s repressive measures related to the moral and dress code campaigns carried out since 2015, targeted specifically women’s rights activists to scare them away from any opposition attempt. In that context, the polarized perceptions of women’s participation are trapped in a dichotomy that is conceptually limiting. This research seeks to address the complexity of women’s participation and challenge the binary between women’s victimhood and agency in conflict situations and state-building.  

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