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Yemeni Civil Conflict: An Unimaginable Situation

Image Source: ArabNews.Pk / Reuters
Image Source: ArabNews.Pk / Reuters

Yemeni conflict reflects the failure of the Yemeni government to address the common needs to its citizen, the uprising of politically marginalized Houthis and the corrupt state, which bring the country into civil war.

Yemen is the poorest Arab country in the world. Due to the effect of the Arab Socialist Movement, Yemen’s ‘Imamate ruling system’ disintegrated in 1970 and the country divided into two nations, North Yemen and South Yemen. Again in 1990, under the leadership of Ali Abdullah Saleh, both united into one nation. The corrupt rule of government, the unhealthy treatment of  Houthi minority and the internal conflict made the country more unstable. Political transition happened in 2011 for the stabilization of the country, but it failed to bring peace and finally in 2015, Yemen faced a devastating civil war. Different attempts have been taken by the international community for normalizing the conflict, but all failed to bring peace. The country is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis. Saudi Arabia and Iran is the main player in the conflict.

Since the emergence of Houthi insurgency in 2004 and along with the rise of the Arab Spring, Yemen faced great trouble in maintaining governance, which ultimately brought the civil war in 2015. Yemeni society is very multidimensional and there is also a sectarian dimension which played a major role in the conflict. Historically speaking, the country has experienced different uprising in different course of time since 1962 and also in 2004 and finally the devastating civil war in 2015, which is still going on. For the stabilization of Yemeni socio-political situation, a major political transition held in 2011, which replaced Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh by his Vice-President Abde Rabbo Mansour Hadi (Lackner 2019). Despite the transition, the government was not able to control the internal conflicts and finally in 2015, the Hadi government fall down, while Houthi insurgent occupied Sana’a the Capital of Yemen. The entire trajectory of Yemeni conflict is very multidimensional because the division of Yemeni military, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry and the role of foreign powers such also made the situation more complex. During the political transition, Saleh wanted to bring his son as the military commander of Yemen, but Ahmar the Military commander not wanted to lose his position. That’s why the entire military section of Yemen was divided into two particular groups the Ahmar loyalist and Saleh’s loyalist. Then the Houthi took advantage and has started capturing the areas of North Yemen because the military was so weak. Side by side Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS has taken advantage of the conflict and also spreading in Yemen since 2011, especially the areas of South Yemen.

The discovery of oil in the border regions of both North and South Yemen provided both parties with a financial incentive to strengthen their relations and finally on April 1990, under the leadership of Ali Abdullah Saleh both state signed a unity agreement to merge the both country into a new single nation, the Republic of Yemen (Fierstein 2019). Following that time Saleh has given emphasis only the Northern Yemeni people and his policy towards the southern people were not satisfactory, and the southern people upraised at different times. Another important thing was that the Zaydi Shia group of North Yemen which is known as Houthi lost their Imamate ruling system in North Yemen in 1970 due to Arab Nationalist Movement, and they were not happy with the Saleh rule, because they had not been treated properly by Saleh government. Houthis are a marginalized section in Yemeni politics, not getting proper help from the government and also feeling the fear of ‘Sunnization’ in their Zaydi heartland, that’s why they stated revolution in Yemen under the backing of Iran. Different data shows that Iran is providing arms and training to Houthis. According to various record, Houthis rose up against the Saleh’s government in six times in between 2004 to 2010. For the normalization of the Yemeni situation, a ‘National Dialogue Conference’ was organized by GCC initiatives on March 2013 to January 2014 for the drafting of a new constitution and federal state. United Nations also appointed Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as Special Envoy for Yemen on April 14, 2015. UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2216, which imposed the sanctions on individuals undermining the stability of Yemen and authorized an arms embargo against the Houthi-Saleh forces. But all initiatives fail to bring peace in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is continuously conducting different military actions in Yemen for bringing the Hadi regime and stabilizing the situation with the help of different major powers, such as ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ in 2015.

Yemen is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis after the emergence of civil war. The country has approximately 27.4 million people with chronic natural resource and food shortfalls. According to the World Food Program, “an estimated 7.3 million Yemenis need immediate food aid.” According to UNICEF, “as many as 462,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.” According to the World Health Organization, “14.8 million people lack access to basic health care. There are over 2 million internally displaced in persons in Yemen. 17 million people are in crisis or emergency food situations.” The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that more than 2.4 million Yemenis have fled their homes elsewhere in the country. In January 2017, UN estimates, “more than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, 4000 of them civilians. The majority of deaths have been caused by airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia.” According to the United Nations Report of 2019, “Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is the worst in the world, with close to 80 percent of Yemen’s population of nearly 30 million needing some form of assistance. Two-thirds of the population is considered food insecure; one third is suffering from extreme levels of hunger; and estimates that 230 out of Yemen’s 333 districts are at risk of famine and also notes that humanitarian assistance is increasingly becoming the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis.” (UN Report 2019)

At the end, it can be concluded that the root of Yemeni civil war is the failure of Yemeni society to resolve the popular anger and address the frustration arising from economic disenfranchisement, political marginalized and the effects of an extractive, rentier and corrupt state. These systematic failures bring political upheavals and finally, the country entered into civil war. It is found that two Middle East power, the Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are playing a major role in the civil conflict. The political transition of 2011 failed to meet a proper solution and Houthi forces captured Sana’a the capital of Yemen in 2014, and finally, the Hadi government fall down, which bring the civil war. It is seen that the foreign power is also playing an important role for the solutions of the situation, such as GCC initiates NDC recommendations, UN also sent special envoy, but all initiatives failed because no conflict party is going to negotiate. The USA is still providing arms support to Saudi led coalition and Saudi Arabia is continuously bombing in the in Yemen. Still there is no result coming from the Civil War.

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Written by Niaz Ahmed

The writer is PhD Scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia Univiersity in India. His study and research works concentrate on International Relations and other socio-political issues.

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