… After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hussein al-Houthi, one of the leaders of the Believing Youth, began staging anti-American protests and became a vocal critic of then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. After clashing with the government, Yemeni forces killed Houthi. Following his death, the group was renamed after him. The insurgency continued, led by those related to Hussein al-Houthi – 33-year-old Abdulmalik al-Houthi is the current leader.
How did they become so powerful?
A long period of armed conflict with the government turned the Houthis from “student activists to seasoned insurgents,” Schmitz writes, and the government’s harsh tactics in the north found them a broad set of allies. While they reached a cease-fire with the government in 2010, the next year large protests against President Saleh offered them a new opportunity. The group took advantage, consolidating their control in the northwest and taking part in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) after Saleh stepped down from power.