LONDON: Yemen’s union of teachers has denounced the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s takeover of the country’s schools and curriculum, and accused Tehran of using the education system to pursue a “policy of cultural colonialism.”
Yahya Al-Yinai, head of media at the Yemeni Teachers Syndicate, told the Daily Telegraph that the Houthis have made hundreds of changes to the teaching curriculum since they seized power in a violent 2014 coup. He also said they have replaced nearly 90 percent of school principals with pro-Houthi allies.
Al-Yinai accused Iran of overseeing the changes, saying it is pursuing a “policy of cultural colonialism” by trying to introduce the “ideology of the Khomeinist revolution in Yemen through public education.”
With military and economic assistance from Iran, the Houthis control roughly two-thirds of the Yemeni population.
A report by education watchdog IMPACT-se found that they have been using this position of power to foster hostility to the US, Saudi Arabia and other adversaries of Iran.
Around 3 million young Yemenis currently receive their education in Houthi-controlled parts of the country.
IMPACT-se found that the materials used to educate them are “rife with violence and imagery of death, irrespective of the age of the target audience.”
These images, which include pictures of dead children, are used “to portray the Houthis’ enemies as monstrous and inhumane.”
The organization found that through their signature magazine Jihad, the Houthis aim to indoctrinate Yemen’s next generation toward violence and extremism.
“The Houthi materials grossly violate the ideal of peacemaking, entirely dismissing peace as an option in international conflict resolution, and condemning those who advocate for it as cowardly, foolish or traitorous,” IMPACT-se found.
“Instead, violent jihad, sacrifice in battle, and supporting the war effort in any way possible is held up as an ideal and a central virtue.”
Marcus Sheff, IMPACT-se’s CEO, told Arab News: “Despite lip service to Yemeni nationhood, the Houthis are far more interested in radicalizing than in homogeneous education.”
He said the violent and graphic Houthi education materials could have a lasting impact on children exposed to them.
“Any changes that radicalize — and traumatize — young children are significant,” he added. “These changes fly in the face of those in the region who are trying to moderate curricula, not to incite violence and hate, as are the Houthis.”
Arik Agrissi, chief operating officer at IMPACT-se, said: “Textbooks can act as either a barrier or blueprint to radicalization. In the Houthis’ case, it’s explicitly the latter.”