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Analysis What Remains of the Hashid’s Power? The Rise and Fall of Yemen’s Most Powerful Tribe

اقرأ المحتوى باللغة العربية


A decade of seismic shifts in Yemen’s political landscape has seen the influence of one of its most powerful tribes wane. Among Yemenis and observers alike, however, developments within the Hashid tribal confederation[1] continue to be closely watched, and merit closer scrutiny. The Hashid’s large presence in Amran,[2] which borders the governorate of Sana’a from the north, has historically been instrumental in defining who controls the capital. The tribe’s backing of republicans during the 1962 revolution[3] and ensuing civil war gave the Hashid unparalleled privileges in the decades that followed. Three out of five presidents[4] of North Yemen hailed from the Hashid, including Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose reign spanned more than three decades into the unified Republic of Yemen.

Today, debates among Yemenis on what remains of Hashid’s influence, and the tribe’s relationship with the Houthi group (Ansar Allah), abound. Speculation on whether the Hashid eased the Houthis’ capture of Sana’a in 2014, and whether they abandoned Saleh when he broke his alliance with the Houthis in 2017, remains rife. In July of this year, reports started to circulate on social media, announcing the appointment of a new paramount sheikh, loyal to the Houthis,[5] replacing Himyar al-Ahmar, who in January succeeded his brother Sadiq as leader of the Hashid. Although these reports were unsubstantiated, they once again put the spotlight on the Hashid and point to the enduring interest among Yemenis in the role of northern tribes vis-à-vis ruling authorities in Sana’a.

This analysis gives a brief historical timeline of the rise of the Hashid, charting its decades-long dominance of Yemeni politics. It then goes on to describe their fragmentation in the last years of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s reign, and downfall from power following the takeover of Sana’a by the Houthis in 2014. To conclude, it looks at recent developments within the confederation, shedding light on the role of the Hashid today. Observations are based on extensive research, a review of the relevant literature, as well as interviews conducted with members of the Hashid tribal confederation.[6]

The Hashid in Power: The Al-Ahmar Triangle (1978-2000)

“He is my President and I am his Sheikh.” [7] Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar (1933-2007)

Ali Abdullah Saleh became President of North Yemen in 1978, embarking on a term no one expected to last. Saleh was the third Yemeni president with a tribal background and the third from the Hashid confederation. Like Abdullah al-Sallal, the first president of North Yemen, he came from Sanhan, one of the smaller tribes of Hashid.[8] Defying all odds, and in spite of the two presidential assassinations that preceded his reign,[9] Saleh ended up ruling Yemen for more than three decades, in a tacit partnership with two other prominent figures from the Hashid.

Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, leader of the Hashid tribal confederation, and Yemen’s second most powerful man at the time,[10] and General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a high-powered military commander from the Hashid, controlled the reins of power within the state together with Saleh. As close partners to the president, their influence transcended their respective political, military, and social status, and the alliance turned them into a core part of the country’s power structure and foundational poles of the regime.

At the height of their rule, the relationship between Saleh and Sheikh Abdullah in particular was a subject of intrigue among many Yemenis. Questions around who was more powerful (the state or the tribe?) and who exercised higher authority ( the sheikh or the president?) dominated many a conversation among Yemen’s political and social elites. Their alliance would prove indispensable. Sheikh Abdullah, defying Saudi Arabia,[11] one of his key allies, supported Saleh when he sided with Iraq during its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Saleh was also given unbridled support by Sheikh Abdullah against the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). It was in the conflict with the YSP, during the country’s post-unification political crisis that led to the civil war in 1994, that the alliance between Saleh, Sheikh Abdullah, and Ali Mohsen was at its most unified and cohesive, with all three using the Al-Ahmar name despite not being blood relatives. Such was the bond that it became commonplace for the media to call Ali Mohsen President Saleh’s half-brother.”[12]

With the unification of North and South Yemen came the legalization of a multi-party system. In a televised interview, Sheikh Abdullah, in characteristic frankness, once said that it was Saleh who personally asked him to establish the Islah party,[13] which included the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood but hich also garnered crucial non-ideological support from Yemen’s northern tribes.[14] The founding of the Islah party would enable Saleh to coalesce support against the YSP since he, as a partner to the former ruling party in South Yemen in post-unification Yemen, could not do so alone.

In the aftermath of the victory of northern forces in the 1994 civil war, Saleh’s quest to monopolize power soured ties between him and Islah, but did little to sever the bond with Sheikh Abdullah. Pragmatic calculations based on tribal alliances took precedence over political affiliations, and the partnership continued even when tensions escalated during their sons’ competition for power.

Fractures: Rise of the Second Generation (2000-2011)

The 2000s witnessed the beginning of the rise of a new generation to positions of power, notably Saleh’s eldest son Ahmad, and his nephews, Yahya, Tareq, and Ammar. Sheikh Abdullah’s sons were also playing larger political and business roles, leading to competition among the younger generation over who controlled Yemen’s wealth.[15] The conflict between the second generation of Salehs and Al-Ahmars started to show the first cracks at the top of the alliance, especially when Saleh started to prepare his son for the presidency.

In preparation for his succession, Ahmad was given command of the Special Security forces, a paramilitary force under the Ministry of Interior, and the Republican Guard, a unit that became the largest and best trained within Yemen’s military. Saleh’s nephews Yahya, Tareq, and Ammar were also given prominent roles in the security establishment. Yahya, who was married to Saleh’s eldest daughter, was put in charge of the Central Security Organization, the largest security force in Sana’a. Ammar held several security and military positions and was the de facto commander of the National Security Bureau (NSB), the most important security and intelligence agency in Yemen,[16]while Tareq commanded the president’s personal guard.[17]

Sheikh Abdullah’s sons were also gaining prominence. A running joke among Yemenis at the time was that the Al-Ahmar family bloc in parliament was larger than that of most political parties. Four of Sheikh Abdullah’s sons were members of parliament, while Sheikh Abdullah himself was the speaker.[18]His sons Hamid and Madhhag had strong ideological leanings, which guaranteed their influence among the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced cadres of Islah, but it was Hamid, wealthy and ambitious, who held the most sway. On top of being a prominent leader of Islah, Hamid was also a wealthy businessman whose empire included SabaFon, Yemen’s telecommunication company.[19] Hussein, another son of Sheikh Abdullah, wielded a different sort of power, primarily among his tribesmen,[20] while two other sons, Hashem and Himyar, were personal bodyguards of President Saleh and members of his General People’s Congress (GPC) party.[21]

As growing competition between the second generation of Al-Ahmars and Salehs caused increasing fractures between the two camps, Yemen’s 2003 parliamentary elections marked a key turning point. Saleh decided that the GPC would run in districts of Amran, a stronghold of the Hashid. Up until then, these were non-competitive districts, typically held by loyalists of Sheikh Abdullah and his sons. Nominating the GPC was a symbolic turning point,[22] constituting a challenge to the authority of the Al-Ahmars.[23]

In retaliation, during Yemen’s 2006 presidential elections, Hamid al-Ahmar mobilized the Islah party and a coalition of opposition parties (collectively known as the Joint Meeting Parties), to support Faisal bin Shamlan, the presidential candidate running against Saleh. Shamlan was of Hadrami origin and known for his integrity. This would be the first time Saleh faced genuine competition in an election, with popular rallies supporting his opponent and an increase in the rhetoric against him.[24] Saleh won re-election that year, but the opposition continued to cast a shadow on the results.[25]

A year later, in December 2007, Sheikh Abdullah passed away in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, passing on the tribe’s sheikhdom to his son Sadiq. Abdullah’s death would have critical ramifications. He had been able to exert control over his sons, playing a crucial role in preventing disputes from spiraling out of control. More crucially, he was one of the few individuals that Saleh listened to; his death took away the most important barrier to direct confrontation between the two sides.

Fragmentation (2011)

The 2011 wave of the Arab Spring protests spread to Yemen at a time when it was ripe for popular protest. The country was already witnessing protests in the south, a broad political and civil society movement opposed Saleh in Sana’a, and the regime was contending with a military rebellion in the north and mounting security threats posed by Al-Qaeda.

By March 2011, the protest movement had expanded, garnering the support of the opposition parties, which led to the breakdown of authority. Protests gained momentum when Ali Mohsen defected to join the revolution on March 21 in response to the Friday of Dignity Massacre.[26] Saleh clung to power, but Hamid, using the influence of Islah and the opposition coalition, rallied political and financial support, widely covering Yemen’s protests on Suhail TV, a channel affiliated with Islah. With funding from Qatar, his brother Hussein, supported several revolutionary festivals.[27] In May 2011, clashes were reported between the Central Security Organization forces and Al-Ahmar guards, headed by Sadiq, whose main residence was next to the Central Security Organization’s headquarters. All restraint was abandoned, ending with the al-Ahmar family home in Sana’a being attacked. Sadiq then famously vowed to force Saleh to leave the country “barefoot.”[28]The final blow came with an attempt to assassinate President Saleh on June 3, 2011, inside the presidential palace mosque, during Friday prayers. Saleh accused several of al-Ahmar’s sons and Ali Mohsen of being behind the attempt. The decades-long alliance was now broken beyond repair.

Downfall (2012-2014)

Saleh officially relinquished power in February 2012, ending his 34-year reign as president. For the Al-Ahmars and Ali Mohsen this was a major victory, but events would soon show that this was a complete fracturing of the ruling political hierarchy, one that would soon lead to everyone’s downfall — the Al-Ahmar clan included.

In an unprecedented turn of events, Saleh allied himself with the Houthis, against whom the government had fought a series of conflicts in the 2000s, collectively known as the Sa’ada Wars. In the Houthis Saleh found a suitable ally to pursue revenge against the parties he held responsible for his toppling – enemies turned allies in particular joined forces against their common foe, Islah, which Saleh blamed for spearheading the protests in 2011, along with the Al-Ahmar family and Ali Mohsen. Of all the motives they shared, however, their primary goal was their quest to thwart the political transition process. For Saleh, who wanted to prove the failure of the 2011 uprisings that led to his downfall, the collapse of the political process was personal. The Houthis, on the other hand, knew that they were unlikely to succeed in elections, and that they could gain influence commensurate with their military power through force of arms.[29]

Among the Hashid confederation, growing divisions and increased fragmentation came to a head. Sadiq did not have his father’s commanding presence, nor was he able to control his brothers and their political aspirations. Despite Al-Ahmar’s long rule of the Hashid tribe, a large part of the Hashid supported Saleh.[30] As the Houthis marched toward Sana’a, most of the Hashid’s sheikhs were either passive or sided with Saleh, including key figures such as Sheikh Ali al-Julaidan and Sheikh Mabkhout al-Mashriqi of the Bani Suraim, the largest of Hashid’s sub-tribes, in addition to Kahlan Abu Shawarib, son of Sheikh Mujahid Abu Shawarib, from the Kharif tribe.[31]

Fragmentation and a failure to unify against Houthi expansion ultimately weakened the tribes’ and led to their defeat in Adhr and Al-Usaimat in Amran in early 2014.[32] The Bani Suraim tribes then reached an agreement with the Houthis in February, known as the “Black Line Agreement,”[33] a tribal custom that allows another party to pass their lands without resistance.[34] The Houthis proceeded to take over the Hashid’s strongholds north of Sana’a and bomb the ancestral home of the Al-Ahmar family in Amran the same month,[35] a symbolic development marking a new era in Yemen’s political landscape.

Following the takeover of Sana’a in September 2014, the Houthis went on to establish a tribal cohesion council[36] led by Dhaifallah Rassam[37] from the Khawlan bin Amir tribe.[38] Rassam is from Sa’ada, the Houthi stronghold, and one of the most important tribal allies of the Houthis, linked to the Al-Houthi family by marriage. The appointment of Rassam as the council’s leader did not follow customary tribal practice,[39] and Rassam was ultimately imposed on the tribes, a tactic of political manipulation employed by the Imams and Saleh.[40] Aware of the critical importance of winning over the tribes to secure political influence, the Houthis continued to appoint new sheikhs and impose them on Yemen’s tribes in an effort to secure control.[41] However, whereas Saleh, proficient in tribal codes, bought loyalty, the Houthis, who do not honor the values of equality customarily espoused by tribes, and who believe Hashemites are superior to the rest of Yemeni society, resorted to coercion by force.

Saleh was killed by Houthi forces on December 4, 2017, shortly after announcing his break with the group. None of the Hashid tribal confederation came to his rescue.[42] In the aftermath of his assassination, many Hashid sheikhs suffered extensive humiliation at the hands of the Houthi authorities, including those who had facilitated the Houthi takeover of Amran, and later Sana’a. Tribal leaders were marginalized and demeaned through kidnap, imprisonment, and the blowing up of their homes.[43]

What of the Hashid Now?

On January 6, 2023, Sadiq al-Ahmar passed away. The absence of Houthi leaders at his funeral in Sana’a served as telling evidence of the tension between the Hashid and the Houthi authorities, and the latter were seen as having crossed a red line by disrespecting Yemeni traditions that call for overcoming differences in times of mourning. Among the Hashid, anger and resentment against the Houthis’ unilateral and repressive rule, and their tactics of humiliation, is growing. Tribesmen have noted how they used to complain about the rule of Saleh and the Al-Ahmar family but now “yearn for the old days.” In their words, at least they didn’t suffer the “humiliation and terror” they face today.[44]

This goes some way in explaining the mass attendance of tribesmen at Sadiq’s funeral, which was unlikely to have been solely down to his own legacy. Sadiq, in the end, was unable to resolve or alleviate the divisions within the tribe. Following his death, a swift agreement was reached for Himyar al-Ahmar, the only son of Sheikh Abdullah still residing in Yemen, to become the new paramount sheikh of the Hashid. His choice as the ruling sheikh carries several implications.[45] Himyar does not have a charismatic presence, nor is he influential, but his election ensures that tribal unity is maintained. Choosing Himyar was also a message to the Houthis, to whom the al-Ahmar clan continues to represent a threat. One Hashid tribesman noted how despite the fact he personally opposed the al-Ahmar clan, he agreed to support Himyar’s election in order to challenge the Houthis.[46]

Just six months after the appointment of Himyar as the new head of the Hashid, news started to circulate about the alleged replacement of Himyar with Ameen Atef.[47], [48] Houthi leaders neither denied nor confirmed the news. Hashid tribesmen and sheikhs expressed their surprise and denied the alleged replacement,[49] noting that these were rumors, and likely a trial balloon by the Houthi group to increase pressure on the Hashid, or at least to push Himyar — who refuses to acknowledge their legitimacy — to accept some of their demands, such as resuming work in parliament.[50]

The last decade of momentous political shifts in Yemen has led to the downfall of the Hashid confederation, which no longer holds the reins of power in Yemen. Still, the Hashid continues to be an important political force to watch. Lest we forget, in 1959, amid growing anger and resentment against the ruler’s oppression of the tribes, the Hashid rose against Imam Ahmed,[51] and later became the closest ally of the republican revolution that followed. With this historical precedent in mind, the jury is still out on whether the Hashid constitute a threat to the Houthi authorities in Sana’a.

This analysis is part of a series of publications produced by the Sana’a Center and funded by the government of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. The series explores issues within economic, political and environmental themes, aiming to inform discussion and policymaking related to Yemen that foster sustainable peace. Views expressed within should not be construed as representing the Sana’a Center or the Dutch government.

  1. Along with the Bakil confederation, the Hashid are a branch of the Hamdan tribe. Together, they form the two most prominent tribal confederations in the areas north of and surrounding Sana’a, commonly referred to as the “Land of the Hamdan.”
  2. The Hashid confederation branches out into four main offshoots: Bani Suraim, Al Usaimat, Kharif, and Adhr. Located in the governorate of Amran, this group of tribes are also known as the “Little Hashid.” There are other branches of Hashid, such as the Dhulaymah tribe, as well as many allies, including the Sahaar tribe, the Khawlan bin Aamir tribe, the Sanhan tribe, the Bilad Al Rous, and Bani Bahloul. Although it has roots in five governorates (Sana’a, Amran, Al-Jawf, Hajjah, and Sa’ada), the confederation’s strongest presence is in the governorate of Amran.
  3. Yemen’s republican revolution erupted on the morning of September 26, 1962, giving rise to a protracted civil war fought between the republicans, supported by Egypt, and the royalists, supported by Saudi Arabia.
  4. Five presidents ruled North Yemen between 1962 and 1990, three of whom were from the Hashid confederation. These include Abdullah al-Sallal (1962-1967), Ahmad al-Ghashmi (1978) and Ali Abdullah Saleh (1978-2012).
  5. Various Yemeni news websites circulated the story on social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube. “Sana’a announces the Hashid tribes have chosen Sheikh Ameen Atef as their Sheikh and Sheikh al-Ahmar Threatens War [AR],” July 9, 2023,; “Al-Houthi and the Attempt to Reconstitute the Hashid on his Terms [AR],” Al-Masdar, July 18, 2023, ; “The Hashid abandons the Al-Ahmar family [AR],” Sawt al-Shoura, July 10, 2023,اخبار/اخبار-محلية/حاشد-تتخلى-عن-آل-الأحمر/
  6. Confidential Interviews were conducted by the author between February and July 2023, primarily via Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. These include interviews with two Hashid tribesmen, one sheikh from the Hashid, and a former high-ranking official from the General People’s Congress Party (GPC). In addition, a WhatsApp interview was also conducted with Adel Dashela, a prominent researcher on Yemen’s tribes.
  7. This quote by Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar is widely cited to illustrate the relationship between Ali Abdullah Saleh and Sheikh Abdullah. Tawfiq al-Shanwa, “What is left of the position of Sheikh of the President in Yemen [AR]?,” Independent Arabia, January 14, 2023,
  8. Tribes in Yemen can be political and social alliances, not just groups of people with a common ancestry. Author’s confidential WhatsApp interview with tribal figure and former GPC member, February 23, 2023.
  9. Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim al-Hamdi was assassinated in 1977, within three years of becoming president, paving the way for President Ahmad al-Ghashmi, who was assassinated in 1978, just six months into his presidency.
  10. Adel al-Ahmadi, “The Legacy of Abdullah al-Ahmar Continues in Yemen,” The New Arab, December 30, 2014,
  11. Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia was somewhat contradictory, with some arguing that his staunch support for the republic during the 1962 revolution was driven out of personal motivation, as revenge against the Imamate, following the murder of both his father and brother during the Hashid rebellion against the Imam Ahmed in 1958. Rim Mugahed, “Tribes and the State in Yemen,” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, January 31, 2022,
  12. “Yemeni president’s half-brother confirms assassination attempt [AR],” Al-Riyadh, April 6, 2011,
  13. Al Shaibani, Muhammad Abdulwahab, “The Islah Party: From Its Founding to the State of Deteriorating Alliances [AR],” Belqees Net, September 16, 2022,حزب-الاصلاح-من-التاسيس-الى-خارطة-التحالفات-المتاكلة
  14. It is important to note that not all northern tribes were a unified bloc. One of the most prominent tribal leaders of the Bakil confederation, Sheikh Sinan Abu Luhoum, along with a prominent Hashid tribal leader, Sheikh Mujahid Abu Shawarib, criticised the post-unification political crisis, and the role played by the Al-Ahmars and Saleh, and issued a statement claiming that the cause of the crisis was a conflict over power and had nothing to do with the interests or unity of the country. Sadiq Nasher, “Sheikh Sinan Abu Luhoum: My Relationship Had Its Ups and Downs [AR],” Elaph, September 11, 2007,
  15. Sarah Philips, Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis (Routledge, 2011) Chapter 3.
  16. This was despite the fact that Ammar was actually Deputy Chief of the NSB. Chief of the NSB Ali al-Ansi would reportedely take his orders from Ammar.
  17. “President Saleh’s Relatives in Power,” Al Jazeera Net, September 11, 2007,أقارب-الرئيس-اليمني-في-السلطة
  18. Members of the Yemeni Parliament (2003 – 2009 Elections), National Information Center, February 27, 2023,
  19. Noman Mustapha, “Ali Abdullah Saleh 30 [AR],” Independent Arabia, October 8, 2019,آراء/علي-عبد-الله-صالح- 30
  20. Unlike his father and most of his brothers, Hussein spent most of his time in his ancestral village among tribesmen, and became well-known for being generous, traits that earned him a special place among members of the Hashid tribe. Author’s confidential WhatsApp Interview with a tribesman and former high-level GPC member, February 23, 2023.
  21. Saleh Al-Baidhani, “The Rise and Fall of the Al Ahmar Family [AR],” Independent Arabia, February 8, 2014,قصة-صعود-آل-الأحمر-في-اليمن-وسقوطهم
  22. Yemen’s 2003 elections demonstrated that the state had the capacity to challenge the authority of the sheikhs. It also showed how the Al-Ahmar’s residence in the capital (with the exception of Hussein), far from their villages and tribal areas, had created a weakness that could be exploited politically.
  23. Author’s confidential WhatsApp interview with a tribesman and former high-level GPC member, February 23, 2023.
  24. Not all of the Al-Ahmar clan partook in mobilizing against Saleh’s re-election. Sheikh Abdullah, who was ill at the time, gave a famous interview on national TV, in which he pledged his support for Saleh despite pointed criticism of his rule, using a well-known Yemeni saying: “Better the devil you know than the person you don’t.” Al-Baidhani, Saleh, “The Rise and Fall of the Al Ahmar Family [AR],” Independent Arabia, February 8, 2014,قصة-صعود-آل-الأحمر-في-اليمن-وسقوطهم
  25. A source close to Saleh confirmed that the announcement of the election results was delayed because President Saleh’s advisors were trying to dissuade him from claiming a victory with more than 90 percent of the vote, noting that the popular support for Shamlan might make a result with less than 80 percent more believable, which is where the 77 percent result was approved. Interview with a former GPC official, February 15, 2023.
  26. The Friday of Dignity massacre was the deadliest attack on demonstrators of Yemen’s yearlong uprising. Over the course of three hours, gunmen killed at least 45 protesters and wounded 200, while state security forces made no serious effort to stop the carnage. Human Rights Watch, “Unpunished Massacre: Yemen’s Failed Response to the Friday of Dignity Killings”, February 12, 2013, Friday of Dignity massacre, in which gunmen in civilian,demonstrators of Yemen’s 2011 uprising
  27. Author’s confidential WhatsApp interview with a Hashid tribesman and politician, February 15, 2023.
  28. The Al-Ahmar clan had by then distanced themselves from Ali Abdullah Saleh. Adding insult to injury, they referred to him by his original family name, Affash. This was a symbolic gesture meant to insult Saleh and stress the Al-Ahmars’ superiority. While the sons of Sheikh al-Ahmar were direct descendants of the Al-Ahmar clan, Saleh came from a clan with lower social status. “Sheikh Sadiq Al Ahmar to Al Arabiya: Saleh Must Leave With Nothing [AR],” Al Arabiya, May 26, 2011,
  29. Maysaa Shuja al-Deen, “Yemen’s Houthis and Former President Saleh: An Alliance of Animosity,” Arab Reform Initiative, October 7, 2016,
  30. This was for a number of reasons. The first is that most of the sheikhs’ financial interests were linked to the authorities, which had been under the control of Saleh until then. The second is that many tribesmen blamed the Al-Ahmar family for the total absence of services in Amran. Most of the Hashid remain largely uneducated and poor due to their sheikhs wanting to maintain a supply of fighters and guards. Third, support of Saleh’s affiliated media and the Houthi propaganda machine heavily influenced people into believing they were against corruption and willing to resolve tribal vendettas and provide security.
  31. Writer and Hashid tribesman Adel Dashela, Whatsapp interview, March 1,2023.
  32. “Al-Houthi and the Attempt to Reconstitute the Hashid on his Terms [AR],” Al-Masdar, July 18 2023,
  33. “Official in charge of the “Black Line” agreement with the Houthis challenges the militia and does this act [AR],” Al-Arabi Al Yemeni, November 26, 2016,
  34. Ibid.
  35. “Houthis blow up Sheikh al-Ahmar’s house in al-Khumri in Amran [AR],” Al-Masdar, February 2, 2014,
  36. Tribal councils are formed by those reaching political power to show solidarity with the tribes and forge relationships with prominent tribal leaders who will rally their tribesmen for support in case of war.
  37. Adel Dashela, “Northern Yemeni Tribes during the Eras of Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi Movement: A Comparative Study,” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, February 16, 2022,
  38. The first fighters supporting the Houthis in the Saada wars (2004-2010) were from the Khawlan tribe.
  39. Adel Dashela, “Coercing Compliance: The Houthis and the Tribes of Northern Yemen,” Fikra Forum, November 6, 2020,
  40. During Saleh’s time it became common to refer to Sheikh Abdullah as the sheikh of all Yemeni tribal sheikhs, a media creation that bore no resonance among tribes, and which caused resentment among the non-Hashid tribes , who saw it as an attempt by the regime to impose a Hashid sheikh on them.
  41. Adel Dashela, “Coercing Compliance: The Houthis and the Tribes of Northern Yemen,” Fikra Forum, November 6, 2020,
  42. There are a number of reasons why none of the Hashid tribes came to Saleh’s rescue. The Houthis had by then succeeded in attracting to their side some of the important tribes around Sana’a. Second, it had become clear that the military balance was in favour of the Houthis, and there was no point in fighting a losing battle. Third, Saleh’s shifting political positions, especially in his last years, made people lose trust in him.
  43. Adel Dashela, “Coercing Compliance: The Houthis and the Tribes of Northern Yemen,” Fikra Forum, November 6, 2020,
  44. Author’s confidential interviews via Zoom and Facebook with Hashid tribesmen and sheikh, July 11-12, 2023.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Author’s confidential personal interview with Hashid tribeman, July 11, 2023.
  47. “Hashid Tribes Choose Sheikh Ameen Atef as their Sheikh [AR],” Aden al-Ghad, July 9 2023,
  48. Ameen Atef, who is not an actual sheikh, is from the tribe of Bani Suraim in Amran.
  49. Author’s interviews via Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger with two tribesmen and a sheikh, July 10, 2023.
  50. Sarman Badeel, Twitter post, July 11, 2023,
  51. Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, “Memoirs of Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar,” Sana’a, Horizons House for Printing and Publishing, 2007.
Program/Project: The Yemen Review