Abdelmalek al-Houthi

Position: Leader of Yemen’s Houthi movement

Biography: Six months ago, the name Abdelmalek al-Houthi was little known outside Yemen. But during the course of a dramatic few days in September 2014, the Houthi movement he commands seized control of the capital, Sanaa, turning the rebel Shia group into the country’s de facto political kingmaker.

Since then, it has moved south and west, taking control of a major port and fighting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The 34-year-old leader of a movement named after his older brother Hussain, killed by Yemeni security forces in 2004, has spent the past decade building the former religious revivalist group into Yemen’s most effective militia. Now, Al-Houthi has his eye on politics.

In December 2014, he confronted interim president Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi with strong ultimatums. Whether or not he moves to push Al-Hadi out, Al-Houthi has turned his movement into a political force to be reckoned with and his voice will continue to resonate ever louder in 2015.