Abdulmalik Al-Houthi’s Ramadan lecture comes at a time when Saudi Arabia and the West are pressuring the Houthis to distance themselves from Iran in exchange for a peace deal with the Saudis.
Houthi leader reaffirms deep ties with Iran, calls for ‘liberation’ of Mecca
The leader of the Houthis, Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, has called for the “liberation” of Mecca and other holy places in Saudi Arabia in a religious lecture broadcast in Yemen during Ramadan.
Al-Houthi said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had no mandate or legitimacy to control the holy mosque, and said the kingdom’s administration of these sites and the ritual of Hajj deterred many from performing the prayers.
“It is a crime against those holy places and one of the biggest crimes of all time” that they remain under Saudi control, Al-Houthi said, calling for the sites to come under the control of the “believers.”
The lecture was broadcast on the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV station, based in the suburbs of Beirut where Iran-backed Hezbollah holds sway.
Al-Houthi accused the Saudi’s of exploiting their control of Islam’s holiest site for political, cultural and financial reasons. The Houthis and their allies in Iran and Lebanon are devoted to the idea of the right of “Ahl Al-Bayt,” literally translating to “People of the House,” referring to the Prophet Mohammed’s family. Claiming descendance from the Prophet, Al-Houthi believes he and others of the “Bayt” are the only legitimate overseers of Islam’s holy sites.
The lecture comes at a time when Saudi Arabia and the West are putting pressure on the Houthis to distance themselves from Iran in exchange for a peace deal with the Saudis.
Al-Houthi’s words on this topic have been interpreted to mean that there is something far deeper than politics linking the group to Iran, and that it is not a temporary political alliance of convenience. The statements come as a blow to diplomats who have been arguing that distancing the Houthis from Iran is possible, and have lobbied Saudi Arabia to support this move. The issue of the right of the Prophet’s family to oversee Mecca is a sensitive one for Saudi Arabia.
Al-Houthi’s lectures have been broadcast each night of Ramadan this year. The commentary includes a reading of various verses in the Quran, largely focusing on stories about “polytheists,” “oppressors” and “hypocrites,” and then applying those labels to the Houthis’ enemies.
Editing by Ahlam Mohsen and Casey Coombs