The Houthi Code of Conduct: An Additional Step to Complicate the Conflict in Yemen

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On Monday, November 7, 2022, the Houthi group announced that the so-called “Code of Conduct and Work Ethics in Public Service Units” had come into force in the areas under its control. The group has proceeded with implementing its procedures and turned the Code of Conduct into a cause for mobilization. The Code includes many issues that raised employees’ fears and anger, which necessitated reactions from official and popular authorities.

What is the Code of Conduct that was announced by the Houthis? What are its goals? And what repercussions could it have on the ongoing conflict in Yemen?

The Concept of “Code of Conduct”:

Codes of conduct appeared in the second half of the 20th century, with the aim of defining the values, standards and principles related to work ethics and employee behavior, defining desirable and non-desirable behavior in the framework of the work environment and guiding employees to the behavioral and ethical standards that must be adhered to when dealing with citizens, their colleagues, chiefs and subordinates, as well as dealing with the requirements of the job. It is also required that the values, standards, principles and regulations upon which these standards are based are derived from the common culture and values shared in society; otherwise, they would play a negative role.

These codes appeared initially in business organizations and the private sector, and some countries have recently adopted them, including several Arab countries, such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The Context:

The Houthi group’s announcement of the Code of Conduct came, considering the political conditions, characterized by the following:

  1. The war stopped as a result of the humanitarian truce, which started in the beginning of April 2022, which — although efforts to renew it have failed so far — provided the Houthis with enough space to deal with issues that had been postponed due to the circumstances of the war, including the issue of dealing with state employees and state administration.

  2. Although efforts to pay employees’ salaries in the Houthi-controlled areas have failed due to their irrational demands, the Houthi leaders are convinced that they will eventually be able to force the Arab League and the Presidential Leadership Council to pay government salaries, according to their conditions. Therefore, the announcement of this code comes within the framework of preparing to organize employees’ conditions and adapt the dismissal process to serve their goals.

  3. The announcement of this code came in a favorable regional and international context for them, considering the international need to calm the Yemeni issue due to the FIFA World Cup, which is taking place in Qatar, the Russian-Ukrainian war and the tense relations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

The Motives and Objectives of the Houthis:

An in-depth reading of the Code and the Houthis’ continued implementation shows that they aim to achieve the following goals:

  •  Tightening control over the state administrative apparatus:

The state administrative apparatus includes hundreds of thousands of employees, most of whom reject the Houthi group’s control of power by force of arms. The Code included several points that would enable the Houthis to fully control the state apparatus, by obligating employees to:

– Sign a written pledge to abide by the Code’s provisions and keep it in the employee’s file.

– Preventing employees from providing the media with any information.

– Preventing employees from sharing any information on social media, submitting any documents, commenting, declaring, or engaging in any private issues related to public service units.

– Not issue or publish statements, letters, materials or information that contradict the state’s general policy and conflict with public order.

– Prohibition of publishing any administrative and practical problems, or even dealing with them on social media.

– Boycotting hostile and suspicious media — as they claim — and warning against it.

– Appointment to government jobs and continuing in them, requires signing the code and adhering to it.

– Violation of any clause in the Code makes the employee subject to penal procedures, the limit of which is not specified.

  • Imposing a unified sectarian character on the state’s administrative apparatus:

One of the most prominent features of the code is the imposition of a unified sectarian character through:

  1. Defining sectarian and divisive references:

The code limited what it called its basic pillars to: the Prophet’s guidance (meaning the Prophet’s Sunnah in the Houthis’ understanding and not in the general Muslim understanding), the Letter of Imam Ali to Malik al-Ashtar, Lessons and Lectures from the Guidance of the Holy Qur’an (meaning the lessons of Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, the group’s founder), the speeches and lectures of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, and the creedal identity (a divisive concept presented by the Houthi group as an alternative to the unifying national identity), all of which are either sources of Houthi ideology based on sectarian unity or central concepts in it. Through this, the Code establishes a deep and extended division in the state institutions and Yemeni society, which will be the basis for a long and unending conflict.

  1. Filling the Code with sectarian and divisive concepts: Including “the creedal concept”, “the creedal identity”, “building the creedal identity”, “the covenant of Imam Ali”, “alliance with Allah, His Messenger and the believers”, “the creedal orientation”, “following the Book of Allah and His Messenger and the Commander of the Faithful, Ali”, “commitment to the principle of alliance with Allah, His Messenger, and those who believe”, “elevation in faith”, etc. These are divisive concepts rejected by a wide current of Yemeni legislators, and they also transform the Code into a tool to impose a unified sectarian character on state institutions and society.

  • Establishing a totalitarian system:

The Code is saturated with many measures that enshrine a totalitarian approach and impose it on Yemeni society, including obligating state employees to:

  1. Work with the rest of the entities to activate programs and activities that preserve the creedal identity and confront all hostile activities.

  2. Carry the revolutionary spirit and participate in reviving religious and national events.

  3. Adopt clear positions against the enemies of the country and the nation and participate effectively in general mobilization activities.

  4. Elevation of faith through serious interaction with cultural courses and educational programs.

  • Turning the Code into a Cause for Public Mobilization:

In managing the areas under their control, the Houthis rely on creating a cause at every stage and turning it into a slogan for public mobilization so that it becomes the main subject of the media. They also launch events in ministries, institutions, governorates, directorates, etc., so that their cause becomes the main subject for the media, preventing their supporters from becoming passive and keeping them tense and pro-active.


Forcing state employees to abide by this code is likely to have several repercussions, including:

  • Increased popular discontent:

The Houthis’ imposition of the code is expected to lead to popular rejection and discontent for the following reasons:

  • The imposition of the code shows the Houthis are divided ideologically and that they force their ideologies on the population, at a time when they show no interest in paying the salaries of employees or alleviating the suffering of the people.

  • The imposition of this code entails humiliation and disrespect for employees, which calls for an increase in popular resentment against them.

  • There is widespread suspicion among citizens that the main motive for imposing the code is the intention to harass employees, excluding several of them under the pretext of not signing it, and claiming that they have violated its contents.

  • The Houthis show their opportunistic side, at a time when there are indications that the Yemeni government or Saudi Arabia or Qatar, may take care of paying the salaries of the employees. The Houthis anticipate this matter with these procedures in a way that enables them to exploit and humiliate the employees or deprive them of their salaries and perhaps of their jobs, too.

  • Complicating efforts to renew the armistice:

The code contributes to a trust decline between the conflicting parties in Yemen, where it is expected to further complicate the situation and possibly return to war, as it puts the PLC under great pressure from its supporters to not give the Houthis much money. The field imposes its ideas on the state and society.

  • Providing the environment for a protracted conflict

The sectarian character of the code reduces the political nature of the conflict in Yemen on account of the sectarian and ideological conflict, and it works to widen the gap between the Houthis and the rest of the popular components, which makes the conflict based on an ethnic and sectarian basis and provides it with many factors of permanence and continuity.


Reading the intellectual structure of the Houthis, and the way they administer the areas under their control, shows that their dealings with this code will be within the framework of one of the following scenarios:

A case for interim mobilization

This scenario tends to indicate that the code is for public mobilization and that they will not push for its full implementation, for the following reasons:

  1. The widespread popular rejection of this code and the Houthis’ realization that its imposition will bring great repercussions on them, both internally and externally.

  2. The possibility of a deterioration of the situation if the war resumes between the Houthis and the PLC, as the Houthis will tend to rearrange priorities, including the possibility of retracting the implementation of the code, easing popular tension, and directing their potential toward war.

  3. The Houthis’ way of running the state, which is characterized by corruption and politicization, is inconsistent with any tendency for development and improvement, which means that the code is nothing but a way for bidding and claiming to adopt methods and tools applied in advanced systems.

Ideological hegemony

This scenario starts from the fact that imposing this code is a strategic priority for the Houthis and that they will overlook any negative effects resulting from its implementation, in exchange for the strategic goals it aims to achieve. This scenario assigns the following features:

  1. That this code is part of a comprehensive approach aimed at the Houthis’ control over state apparatus and components of society and that the function of this code is to enable them to control the state’s administrative apparatus. Moreover, the role of the code will be similar to the “Tribal honor” document, which enabled them to control the men and sheikhs of the tribes, and “this code, according to Mahdi Al-Mashat, the head of the so-called “Supreme Political Council”, is one of the steps that will be followed by programs that will be announced and launched successively,” including holding the so-called “First National Conference to Develop Curricula and Diversify Paths of Education”, which is likely to aim to significantly change the educational curricula, and there are fears of its doctrine, which means that the Houthi group is continuing to impose its ideological projects and implementing them through successive steps and tools.

  2. The Houthis, as shown by their previous experience, rely on force to impose their agendas and do not pay much attention to popular satisfaction or discontent.

  3. That regional and international developments may serve the Houthis and enable them to impose their intellectual perceptions, in light of the decline in a military settlement option by both the coalition countries and the PLC.

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