1,100 years ago Imam al-Hadi came to Sa’ada looking for a place in its mountains to form al-Zaidi state that would be safe from Abbasid oppression. Al-Hadi took shovels from the hands of farmers and instead gave them swords. Al-Hadi continued his war and the damage in Sa’ada became bigger until he couldn’t hold the borders of his state and nothing remained for him, only Sa’ada’s mountains and a small grave carrying his name. Mountains were his beginning and end.
The people in Sa’ada returned to their farms, tired of the Imamate’s endless battles. It was the Tabaristan people who had the largest and fertile lands.
When Saudi wanted to get rid of armed Salafi expansion after the storming of Mecca by Juhayman in 1979, it sent its active Salafi caller Moqbel al-Wadei to Sa’ada to establish influence over every Yemeni city.
Al-Wadei tried to convince Damaj’s farmers that the last heaven is more important than their green heavens that they cropped every season. Salfais used soft power instead of the sword and they succeeded in Damaj to end Shafi’i, Zaidi and Sufis in most Yemeni cities but ended up displaced and persecuted, even in their institutions and mosques.
Centuries later Hussein al-Houthi returned to the Maran mountains to bring back the glory and ambitions of the Zaidi doctrine. Hussein al-Houthi started from the Maran mountains and was killed in the first war with the state. The mountains were the start and the end.
When Ali Abdulla Saleh was in favor of hereditary rule for his son, the biggest obstacle in front of him was Ali Mohsen. But in the confrontation between the Houthis and the state in 2004, the mountains of Sa’ada became again a geographical chance to drain the army of Ali Mohsen and eliminate their dangerous competitor. After the Saleh regime ended in the 2011 uprising, Sa’ada was the strategic sectarian military base that would sweep the capital Sana’a in September 2014 and put Yemen in the face of political and military confrontation with the world. The mountains of Sa’ada defended the palaces in Sana’a.
When Iran began to extend its influence in the Arab world after the fall of the “eastern gate guards” and the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the Shia minorities were possible gunpowder stores in the mind of the Iranian plan, including the small nucleus of the Steadfast Youth movement in Sa’ada. Sa’ada had been exporting pomegranates, oranges and vegetables but Abdul-Malik al-Houthi convinced them that death is greater than life and fighters are higher ranked than farmers, so Sa’ada began to export fighters instead of fruit, and the land that was once planted with orange trees became mined.
On a Friday night, Sa’ada’s mountains were moaning under the Saudi bombing. Houthi leaders were still safe in the caves of the mountains while their citizens die every day. The Houthis dominated the state, but its leaders are still in the caves of the mountains. For Sa’ada and its leaders, the mountains remain the start and end as well.
The citizens of Sa’ada are trying to stabilize the agriculture field, but the leaders of the holy wars have taken them from the fields to the mountains. Sa’ada is a city of graves, the largest number of graves in a mosque in Yemen is in the Imam Hadi Mosque in the old city. There are nearly twenty tombs of Imams, their children, and their wives.
Sa’ada doesn’t have huge buildings except camps and cemeteries. In 2011 the Houthis organized marches backing the popular revolution near the wall of the cemetery because it is the biggest wall on the largest street. In the six senseless wars, the green areas planted with fruit and vegetables were destroyed and instead the green space of the graves of martyrs expanded. The Houthis called it Martyrs Meadow.
Sa’ada is a long history of conflict between the mountain, the farm and the grave, but the Saudi strikes have bombed the mountains, farms and graves as well.
Sa’ada is a victim of the succession struggle and the victim of the ability of oil to buy international attitudes and war crimes. Sa’ada is a victim of buying the silence of the Yemeni government with Saudi riyals.
Sa’ada is a long history of conflict between the mountain, the farm and the grave. But it is also a long history of a longing to join the state. Yet the state has not put Sa’ada on its map yet. The political elite are still demanding the Houthis withdraw to Sa’ada as if Sa’ada is geographically outside the home.
After the 1962 revolution and the expulsion of the royalists, Sa’ada was the first to fall in the hands of the rebels. After that, the royalists were gone forever, but the republicans forgot to return Sa’ada to the state.