‘Tim-Houthi Chalamet’: handsome TikToker spreads Yemen rebels’ message

SANAA (TIP): Gazing smoulderingly into the camera as he boards a hijacked ship, a young influencer is gaining attention as he promotes a controversial cause: Yemen’s Houthi rebels and their attacks in the Red Sea. Rashed Al-Haddad, 19, has become a minor celebrity for his social media posts, some set to triumphant music and showing him brandishing the red, white and black flag of Yemen, with a large ceremonial dagger thrust into his belt.
Though not a member of the Iran-backed group, the telegenic TikToker with cherubic curls, who lives in the rebel-held capital Sanaa, has been dubbed “Tim-Houthi Chalamet” by social media users for his resemblance to “Wonka” star Timothee Chalamet.
“I received many offers to participate in fashion shows and advertisements, but I decided to take advantage of this fame for the Palestinian cause,” he told AFP.
Haddad’s profile has grown alongside the rise in international attention on war-torn Yemen after Houthi attacks on shipping — launched, the group says, in protest at Israel‘s war against Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza — triggered US and British reprisal strikes.
The attacks led the United States to redesignate the Houthis a “terrorist” organisation, with ships being diverted thousands of miles around Africa and threatening to disrupt everything from car factories to natural gas deliveries.
The fresh-faced teen received millions of views for his video of a trip to the Galaxy Leader, the Israel-linked cargo ship that was captured in November and is now being paraded as a trophy of war. He presents an alternative to the grizzled image of the Iran-backed Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital in 2014.
A Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to prop up the internationally recognised government, plunging the country into a brutal war that has since resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
‘Millions of views’
“When I started on TikTok, I posted videos of the ship (Galaxy Leader) that was seized by the Yemenis. When I posted the video clips, they reached millions of views within four days,” he told AFP in Sanaa, wearing a combat belt with a rifle slung across his lap.
“After that, the account was banned (by TikTok) and deleted permanently.”
Haddad said his Instagram account with 70,000 followers was also deleted along with his Facebook profile. Both platforms, owned by Meta, ban hate speech.
In contrast to Haddad’s videos, the Houthis are often seen holding mass demonstrations where weapon-toting crowds chant: “Death to Israel, death to America!”
“Three of my TikTok accounts were banned as well, but I have created new accounts, and thankfully, the number of followers is increasing,” Haddad said, shrugging off comparisons with Hollywood‘s Chalamet. “I did not care that (social media users) compared me to this actor, but I was happy in another way,” he said. (AFP)

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