Yemen 2015

Yearbook 2015

Yemen. Political chaos and strife turned into a full war during the year that raged in most of the country. The clashes were between President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi’s government army on the one hand with the support of separatists in the south and an Arab country alliance led by Saudi Arabia, and on the other the Shiite Muslim Huthi rebels supported by Iran and the 2012 President Ali Abdullah Saleh deposed. The war already left the very poor Yemen in severe humanitarian crisis and 21 million people – around 80% of the population – were estimated to be in urgent need of assistance by the end of the year. Nearly 6,000 people were killed in fighting, of which nearly half were civilians, and at least 1.5 million were driven from their homes.

According to COUNTRYAAH, Sanaa is the capital of Yemen which is located in Western Asia. The al-Qaeda terrorist group on the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) also remained active and was also challenged by the Islamic State (IS), which claimed Yemen as part of its caliphate and carried out several attacks. Four suicide bombers who attacked two mosques in the capital Sana in February killed around 140 people in what is said to be the bloodiest assault in the country’s history.

The Huthi rebels who took Sana in the fall of 2014 rejected in January the government’s proposal for a new constitution. President al-Hadi resigned and fled to his hometown of Aden. In March, the Houthis also entered Aden and the president now fled abroad. At the end of the month, the Saudi-led alliance of ten countries launched air strikes against Yemen for the purpose of pushing back the Huthir bells.

The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the rebels and demanded that they give up conquered territory. At the beginning of May, the Houthis shot down a Saudi border city, which led to escalated air strikes. Mediation attempts were made under the auspices of the UN and a ceasefire was included on several occasions for humanitarian aid to reach out, but each time flames soon sprang up again.

In July, the government side Aden resumed and in September an offensive was launched to reintroduce Sana. Then Saudi Arabia and Qatar also had ground troops in the country. In November, President al-Hadi returned to Aden and at the end of the year, UN-led peace talks were launched in Switzerland.

Inner contradictions

Political contradictions between conservative northern Yemen and radical southern Yemen led to short-lived wars between the two states in 1972 and 1979. At the same time, there were great tensions within both regions. After merging into one state in 1990, the contradictions between the north and the south have continued, while there is tension within each of these areas.

The conflicts in the northern part of the country have intensified demands in the south to erupt, in order to again establish their own state there. The war of 2015 has therefore intensified the fear that the country may be divided again. External intervention, not least from the United Arab Emirates, has helped to strengthen separatist groups, and demands independence for ancient South Yemen, or parts of it.

The conflict in the north led to the armed uprising started by Houtis in 2004. In 2014, the group captured the capital Sana, then displaced the president and dissolved parliament, after which the government called for military support from outside.

National uprising

The rebellion that erupted in the northernmost part of Yemen in 2004 was started by the ash-Shabab al-Muminin movement, best known as Houtis; led by Hussein al-Houti, a religious Zaidi leader.

The conflict in the north was initially concentrated on the province of Saada, but has spread from there. The conflict has several causes; economic, social and cultural. Saada is considered to be Yemen’s least developed area, with few public investments and services. Traditional social structures, including a strong customer relationship, are intact.

A religious dimension also comes into play. This is the heartland of Zaidi, a group within the Shia denomination in Islam, which stands in contrast to the Sunni direction, which is the dominant in Yemen. However, the differences are not considered very large. The government has accused the Zaidis of wanting to set up a Shiite clergy (imamat) in Saada.

Until the revolution in 1962, the then northern Yemen was ruled as a Zaidi imamate. The resistance in the 2000s originated in the same areas that Imam Yahya moved to in 1962 after being deposed, and from which the opposition to the new republic was then waged.

The war between the government forces and Houtis started in June 2004, and has been going on for several rounds. In 2010, it signed a ceasefire as the basis for an agreement known as the GCC initiative by the regional Gulf Cooperation Council (Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC), which was behind the mediation. Saudi Arabia also played an active role in addition to being a member of the GCC. Even before the agreement, in 2009, the country became involved in the government’s war.

The GCC initiative indirectly led to the uprising in 2011, which ended with a regime change.