50 NGOs Urge Biden to Swiftly Reverse Yemen Houthi FTO Designation

By World BEYOND War, January 15, 2021 

Dear President-elect Biden,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, urge you to reverse the designation of the Houthis in Yemen, otherwise known as Ansar Allah, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).

While the Houthis share much blame, alongside the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, for horrific human rights violations in Yemen, the designations do nothing to address these concerns. They will, however, prevent the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to millions of innocent people, greatly hurt the prospects for a negotiated settlement to the conflict, and further undermine U.S. national security interests in the region. Our coalition joins a chorus of growing opposition to the designation, including a bipartisan group of members of Congress, multiple humanitarian organizations operating on the ground in Yemen, and former career diplomats who have served both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Rather than being a catalyst for peace, these designations are a recipe for more conflict and famine, while unnecessarily further undermining U.S. diplomatic credibility. It is more likely that these designations will convince the Houthis that their goals cannot be achieved at the negotiating table. UN General Secretary Gutteres implied this concern when he requested that “everyone avoids taking any action that could make the already dire situation even worse.” Moreover, no evidence supports the need for such designations, a fact pointed out in a letter last month by former US diplomats who expressed concern that “will complicate… efforts to bring the conflict to a negotiated end and begin the long process of stabilizing and reconstructing Yemen.”

Even prior to this designation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an urgent warning in late 2020 stating Yemen is “in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades. In the absence of immediate action, millions of lives may be lost.” Designating the Houthis will further exacerbate and speed this suffering by disrupting the flow of much-needed food, medicine, and aid delivery to the majority of Yemen’s people.  Indeed, leaders of the world’s top humanitarian aid organizations working in Yemen warned in a joint statement that an FTO designation on the Houthis “could cause even greater suffering, given the number of people under its jurisdiction, its control over state institutions, and the already frightening levels of food insecurity and humanitarian need across Yemen.”

Prior to these designations, commercial shippers have been reluctant to import to Yemen given the high risk of delays, costs, and risks of violence. These designations only increase this level of risk for commercial entities and further places the vital work of humanitarian and peacebuilders at risk. As a result, even if humanitarian exemptions are permitted, financial institutions, shipping firms, and insurance companies, along with aid organizations, are likely to find the risk of potential violations to be too high, resulting in these entities dramatically scaling down or even ending their involvement in Yemen – a decision that would have indescribably severe human consequences.

We applaud your administration’s commitment to and look forward to working with you on taking a new approach to U.S. policy in Yemen, as well as the broader Gulf region,  — one that prioritizes human dignity and peace. As part of this larger reset, we urge you to include the full reversal of both the FTO and SDGT designations on day one. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.



Action Corps

American Friends Service Committee

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Arab Resource and Organizing Center


Beyond War and Militarism

Bwana Foundation

Center for International Policy

Charity & Security Network

Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

Churches for Middle East Peace


Common Defense

Demand Progress Education Fund

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)

Environmentalists Against War

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Foreign Policy for America

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

Health Alliance International

Historians for Peace and Democracy

Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project

Just Foreign Policy

Justice Is Global

Libertarian Party Mises Caucus


National Council of Churches

Neighbors for Peace

Pax Christi USA

Peace Action

Peace Direct

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Raytheon Anti-War Campaign

Refugees International


Saudi American Justice Project

Spin Film

STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities

Students for Yemen

The Episcopal Church

The Libertarian Institute

The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

United for Peace and Justice

Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation

Yemen Freedom Council

Yemeni Alliance Committee

Win Without War

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom US

World BEYOND War


Secretary of State Nominee, Anthony Blinken

Secretary of Treasury Nominee, Janet Yellen

USAID Administrator Nominee, Samantha Power

2 Responses

  1. I lived & worked for many years at the age of 22, with my wife who was 19 and a one year old (born in the UK). I was employed by a local private Group to expand & deliver on factory projects and the days were hot & long-siesta between 13:00-15:00- with a 6 day working week. In all my time in Yemen, a country of mountains & deserts and an unspoiled Red Sea coast, I never had any trouble of any kind with a local population that had little in the way of even basic sanitation, electricity or clean drinking water (not unless it was purchased in a plastic bottle!) and the male/head of the family kept a small amount of money to purchase QAT- a local leafed bush with Amphetamine like feelings when chewed.
    I travelled across every part of the country and if ever a problem arose-flat tyre- Yemenis popped up out of nowhere and demanded to assist and refused payment-refusing to take a genuinely earned payment when they had no money for medicines, petrol etc. is a reflection of the nature of the people. Foreign Nationals in Taiiz such as myself had easy access to the coast and to purchase a sensible amount of smuggled alcohol- mainly beer & Whisky- without getting arrested at the multiple army checkpoints also shows the tolerance for foreigners provided we/they did not SELL to locals. Yemen has remarkable people, remarkable architecture, remarkable wildlife and a ‘take’ on life that trusts 100% in Allah. The Houthi’s only did what should have been done before with cheating/scheming ‘presidents’. The Houthi’s were never aligned with Iran but shared the same type of Muslim teachings and if the fears of the murderous regime of KSA| of a poverty stricken neighbour like Yemen has been used to start a war- Yemen against the military might of KSA seems a very one sided war-Yemen has not a single war plane whereas KSA have them in their dozens and I cannot see WHAT they have been bombing as there is nothing to bomb other than minor military buildings and the houses & residents of Yemeni’s for more than 5 years. How ANY country in the West can give support or keep a full diplomatic Embassy in KSA after the very brutal premeditated murder of Mr Khassogi in the KSA Embassy in Turkey only heaps more shame upon the pandering western countries that sell their ‘goods’ in the Kingdom. The so called MBS is a tyrannical despot with a clever intelligence when it comes to murder and incarceration. Daily news in the west shows the number of deaths from Covid- Yemen has no medicines to treat Covid alongside Cholera, Malaria, Diptheria and many more treatable/stoppable diseases and infections yet the rest of the so called ‘civilised world’ turns its back when it should be piling food & medicine to the many NGO’s who live & work in Yemen doing their best in intolerable/impossible situations. When I was in Yemen 8 out of 10 babies died within their 1st year of life. The Houthi’s could no longer tolerate these situations, incursions to small Yemeni oilfields and a government/president whose only role in life was to keep local tribes fighting each other while they siphoned aid money into their personal accounts. As KSA & its many sidekicks are wealthy and have strong military capabilities why do they cry in anger if the Houthi’s receive military support from Iran or any other player- at least Iran sees the need for military support.
    Yemen has never been fully conquered and whilst the nature of the geography favours the local population and I believe that land forces would never win a battle in this manner we have sat, watched and ‘tutted’ while KSA & its partners send their warplanes across Yemen firing missiles & dropping bombs I wonder if they report back that they have been effective in blowing up 10 residential properties & killing the occupants including the elderly & the young. It is like a pheasant shoot for the KSA team and if/when the Houthi’s DO fire a missile into KSA it is an outrageous event even if the Houthi’s aim for oil fields and processing facilities. Saudi Arabian hierarchy seek seats at the Western Tables yet they openly kill thousands for no given reason. The rest of the country is starving to death with the main port of Hodeidah closed off by the KSA EVEN to food supplies of any magnitude. Are we not totally & completely ashamed of what we have allowed to take place & continue to support in a criminal manner. Virtually every country in the region has been the subject of the ravages of long term war and/or occupation- if key western countries stood together and refused to support KSA & their allies it would not take long to get the much needed help into the region. We should demand access to Yemen-it is being blocked at its ports by a warring party who have no right to be at those ports or to be taking any action that hurts a single hair on the head of a Yemeni. I hope the Joe Biden promises of 28/1/2021 are put into effect immediately and that illegal actions under the various articles covering war crimes are bought to account and if that means upsetting KSA & its cronies- better that than another 10,100,1000 Yemenis die today because none of them did anything to deserve it.

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