DISCLAIMER: This article is not a complete retelling of the events in the Republic of Yemen and is merely an explanation of the positions of the different parties in the war. The author strongly recommends further reading on the topic.
Since March 2015, over 10,000 people have died in the Yemeni Civil War. Cities across Yemen have been bombed for over a year by various parties, such as the religious-political Houthis or even by countries like Saudi Arabia and the USA. The war is said to have begun with the -relatively unsuccessful- transition of power from the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, his vice president. However, what did truly begin the war?
Ali Abdulla Saleh’s presidency began in 1978. Saleh was a member of the General People’s Congress, a party founded by him before the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1990. In the 1980s, the party claimed to be “less a political party… and more an ‘alternative to party politics.’” The party’s main ideology is Arab nationalism.
During the Arab Spring, Saleh’s government was ousted from power due to popular opposition and Saleh’s own failings as a president. Saleh was president when the reunification of Yemen occurred in the 1990s, but a lot of Yemenis believe that the “Saleh regime probably stole from Yemen whatever chance for a promising future it had in 1980.” Under Saleh, Yemen’s social, economic and political situations worsened until 2012, when Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi came to power. Hadi won the presidential election with a stunning 99% of the votes and even gained support from the rebels and supporters of the uprisings. However, as his term progressed, Hadi started to face opposition, much like his predecessor. By 2015, his government was out of power due to popular resistance in Yemen. This political chaos was one of the key causes of the war.
Another tense factor that added to the war was the Zaydi Houthi movement. A religious-political movement, it originated from Northern Yemen in the 1990s and fought against Saleh throughout almost his entire second term (2006-2012). During the War on Terror, the tensest conflict was between the Houthis and the Saleh regime. The Houthis have continued to criticise the Saleh administration since 2004, which is evident in their slogan – “God is Great; Death to America; Death to Israel; Damnation to the Jews; Victory to Islam.”
The Houthis’ opposition to the Yemeni government continued through both Saleh’s and Hadi’s terms as president. On September 21st 2014, the Houthis succeeded in taking over the city of Sana’a. In February 2015, due to Houthi pressure, Hadi resigned and fled to the city of Aden.
After the dissolution of the Yemeni government, the Houthis formed their own form of government in November 2016, resulting in criticism from representatives of Hadi. In terms of Yemeni national support, the Houthi movement flourished as command structure, allowing people from diverse Yemeni backgrounds to join in. However, in the international eye, many people see them as an obstacle to peace in Yemen due to their violent activity, lack of support for the United Nations and violation of human rights.
In addition to this, foreign involvement has degraded the situation in Yemen. Countries within the Middle East, namely Iran and Saudi Arabia, have been heavily involved in Yemen, militarily talking, for as long as two years. Iran has supported the Houthis for a long time and has also provided them with military support and weapons; including, but not limited to, 1,500 AK-47 rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, and 21.50-caliber machine guns, according to a statement by the US Navy.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has expressed support for Hadi’s government and the suppression of the Houthi movement as a whole. In order to achieve this, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition bloc with nations such as the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, Jordan, Sudan and Kuwait. Even so, a majority of people believes that Saudi intervention in the war is adding to the harm already present in the country. The United States has also been involved, financially aiding the Saudis in fighting the Houthis in March 2015 and then finally firing missiles themselves in October 2016.
Peacekeeping organisations like the United Nations have also tried to get involved to find an end to the war. However, even after months of trying to come up with peace plans alongside the Houthis, it doesn’t seem like the conflict in Yemen will be solved anytime soon.
The media coverage regarding this war has been so light that Jamie McGoldrick, UN humanitarian official affirmed that “The world has turned a blind eye to what’s happening in Yemen.”
Meanwhile, the situation in Yemen continues to worsen. Yemen’s citizens are unable to feed themselves and the country is on the brink of famine. Children are born prematurely and cities are being attacked. Yemen was already one of the poorest Middle Eastern nations but its economy is weakening by the day. The Yemeni Civil War has left the country in shambles and the people of Yemen are still suffering every single day.