The move has drawn widespread criticism on social media including accusations that the Houthis are intentionally effacing Yemen’s modern identity
At Dhamar University, lecture halls named after national icons now commemorate Houthi fighters
Houthi authorities have renamed 33 lecture halls at Dhamar University after rebel fighters who died in the civil war, according to university documents circulating on social media.
The university’s president Talib Al-Nahari ordered the renaming of the classrooms, which have borne the names of renowned Yemeni scientists, poets and writers since it was established in 1996.
The move has drawn widespread criticism on social media including accusations that the Houthis are intentionally effacing Yemen’s modern identity as part of their war strategy by replacing popular cultural symbols that have emerged since the fall of the Zaidi Shia imamate in the 1962 republican revolution with Houthi symbols.
Critics noted that the overhaul carries a sectarian and dynastic character, as the far majority of the names now lining the university’s halls are Hashemite. During the imamate, Yemen’s rulers came exclusively from Hashemite families who traced their bloodline to the Prophet Mohammed. Many Yemenis fear that the Houthis, who have Hashimi roots, will revive the class-based system in which non-Hashemites, particularly tribes, were subjugated.
The names of two of Yemen’s most iconic artists, Ibn Al-Daiba and Lotfi Jaafar Aman, have been replaced with the names of Houthi Hashemites, who have been at the forefront of the war against Yemen’s Saudi-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s government since March 2015.
Aman, who was born in Aden in 1928, has inspired generations of Yemenis through his poetry and contributions to Yemen’s education system. In the university’s Faculty of Medicine, Aman’s name has been replaced with Hassan Rawi, a Houthi leader who was killed in one of the battles with the national army in Taiz.
In classrooms in the university’s Department of Education, the nameplate bearing the Yemeni historian and jurist, Abdul Rahman Bin Ali Al-Shaybani, has also been replaced. Also known as Ibn Al-Diba’a, Al-Shaybani was a scholar from the town of Zabid in western Yemen who wrote six books in history and contributed to research about the Hadith. His name has been replaced with Khaled Al-Washali, a Houthi leader and correspondent for the rebel’s Al-Masirah TV channel who was killed in early 2014.
Thabit Al-Ahmadi, a Yemeni writer and a researcher on Yemeni history and identity, has warned that Yemenis face a cultural identity crisis brought about by the civil war and it may prove to be just as damaging to the country as the military conflict.
Meanwhile, Dr. Marsh Al-Odaini, former dean of the Faculty of Arts at the university, described the move by the Houthis as an attack on Yemen’s Arab-Islamic identity. He said the Houthi group is using soft power to pursue its goals by attacking educational institutions at all levels.
The names of Hashemite families now occupy 95 percent of the university’s classrooms in various departments. Prominent family names from the district of Anss include Beit Al-Washli, many of whom hold senior military and religious positions, as well as Al-Lahji and Al-Marwani. From Hada district: Beit Al-Dailmi and Al-Kebsi. From the city of Dhamar, names appear from the houses of Shami, Soswah, Ghurbani, and Rawia.
Another academic working at the university, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that if the Houthis are allowed to continue, many prominent Yemeni figures including the poet Abu Al-Ahrar Al-Zubairi, Yemeni writer Abdullah Al-Bardouni and key figures from the September and October Revolutions will be replaced by the names of Houthi leaders.