SHAFAQNA – As the international community is slowly coming to terms with the reality of Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen: its relentless assault on civilian populations and infrastructures, its inhumane and unlawful humanitarian blockade and despicable display of political posing, Wahhabi radicals have intensified their sectarian campaign in Southern Yemen.
Sources in Yemen told Shafaqna that several families belonging to Shia Islam had been forced to go into hiding after militias targeted their homes and business in the seaport city of Aden. While Zaidis remain the majority in the north of the country, South Yemen has stayed predominantly Sunni. While such religious makeup never led to any tensions in the past, as Yemen has always abided by Islam’s pluralist tradition, understanding that at the heart of things Islam remains forever One, the influence of Wahhabism over the past decades has led to a flare up in sectarian hatred on the part of Sunni Muslims.
Wahhabis and Salafis began their nefarious proselytist campaign in 1994, after former President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered the kingdom a certain religious licence in Yemen in exchange for military support against secessionists in the south. This agreement would have catastrophic repercussions for Yemen, as it is its socio-religious fabric which Saudi Arabia radicals worked to corrupt, divide, and tear apart.
Under de facto occupation by al-Saud military coalition, Aden has suffered under the unjust rule of Wahhabism – forced to conform to stringent social and religious scrutiny. Back in the summer of 2015 residents in Aden told Shafaqna how Wahhabi clerics were training and organizing militias to “destroy all traces of Shia Islam in the south.” Additionally mosques were asked to draw lists in order to identify Shia Muslims in their neighbourhood.
While thousands of families chose early during the war to either return back to Sana’a, the capital where they feel their faith will be respected or leave Yemen altogether, those less economically fortunate had to stay behind to face increasing hardship.
Today hardship has become persecution. Families have been denied humanitarian aid, their homes have been raided, their businesses were shut down and on some instances valuables were stolen by Wahhabi militias.
Too scared to speak up, many Sunni residents have turned a blind eye to their neighbours’ suffering.
“Thugs have been hired by Wahhabis to target infiltrators … this is what they call Shiites those days: infiltrators and traitors of Islam. Most Yemenis really do not care about this whole Shia Sunni business, we are all brothers in faith anyway, but Wahhabis have different ideas and they pay well. And so young people easily fall for it. It’s sad …. very sad,” said a man from Aden under cover of anonymity.