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Tuesday, 16 June 2020

The Civil War in Yemen Explained | Yemen Crisis

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐥 𝐖𝐚𝐫 𝐢𝐧 𝐘𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧

Yemen inherited the name “Fortunate Arabia” (arabia felix) from Roman times, but fortune is not what comes to mind today. While unionist Ali Abdullah Saleh became the first President of Yemen, his unsteady rule ended with the Arab spring in 2011, and he abdicated to his deputy: Abbraduh Mansur Hadi.

Houthi Rebels, representing the Shia Muslim minority by this time seized control of the North, sparking a civil war, which has now created what the UN has called the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis’, with 80% of the country’s population in need for humanitarian assistance.

This leads one to ask: is the war worth the cost?

The Civil War in Yemen Explained | Yemen Crisis


ONCE A FORTUNATE LAND 


• Yemen, on the south-western tip of the Arabian Peninsula, was called Arabia Felix by the Romans due to its fertile nature. 

• Since then the name has also been given to mean "fortunate", due to its relative prosperity Roman times due to the cinnamon trade. 

• Now though it is a ticking time bomb, termed the worst humanitarian crisis in the world by the United Nations: Arabia Felix no more.

REGION'S PRE-2011 HISTORY 


• Yemen has historically been divided into two: North Yemen and South Yemen – the North was a colony of the Ottoman Empire until 1918, and the South became a British colony in 1839; the South later became a soviet-backed Marxist state. 

• Proposed unification in 1990 led to a civil war between the unionist focus led by Ali Abdullah Saleh and a separatist socialist movement for South Yemen; the war ended by 1994 with the defeat of the separatists and the installation of Saleh as the President of Yemen.

The Civil War in Yemen Explained | Yemen Crisis


THE ARAB SPRING 


• The Arab Spring was a wave of democratic protests that sprung up all over the Arab world -it was to prove fatal to many authoritarian leaders such as Saleh. 

• After a failure to control widespread protests in Yemen, Saleh handed control to his deputy, Abbraduh Mansur Hadi – he received a corrupt, food insecure, violence-prone country. 

• Weakened by the problems, Hadi's waning rule allowed a minority group - the Houthi Rebels - to seize the northern Saada province by 2012: an act of war against the Yemeni State.

HOUTHI REBELS AND THE SHIA-SUNNI SPLIT 


• The Houthi Rebels were champions of the Shia Muslim minority; in addition to minority support they were backed by forces loyal to Saleh - who was in alliance with the Houthis - and from Sunni citizens who were disillusioned with the Hadi government. 

• Swelling in numbers, the movement gained traction and in 2015 the rebels took the capital city of Sana'a, and came dangerously close to capturing Aden - a major port city and Yemen's temporary capital.

INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION 


• The rise of the Houthis alarmed the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia, who believed that the Houthi rebels were backed by the Shia state of Iran. 

• Joined by a coalition of eight mostly Sunni states, Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of the Hadi government - backed by the US, UK and France. 

• While the Saudis expected the Houthis to be rolled back within four weeks of intervention, the war raged on until today, with the Houthis still very much in the game.

CONFLICT ZONES ACROSS YEMEN 


• The Houthis still control a large territory with the coalition forces intensifying the war; war zones with active conflict are becoming larger and over 24 million individuals are at-risk.

BLOOD ON THE HANDS OF THE COALITION 


• Since 2016 coalition airstrikes have killed over 100,000 civilians and contributed to Yemen's growing food crisis. 

• They blocked all sea and air shipments in a country which imported 90% of its food and water; over 80% of the population requires humanitarian assistance, with famines and cholera outbreaks becoming the norm. 

• Over 8 million depend on the UNICEF for water and sanitation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with their WASH program at the brink of shutting down due to lack of funds.

COVID-19 AND YEMEN 


• While Yemen has only had 844 cases, over 208 have died; a mortality rate of almost 25% compared to the world average of 5.4%. 

• This is a result of lack of immunity due to famine, and the already near-collapsed state of the healthcare system due to the conflict. 

• Amid all this the fighting has resumed with 43 airstrikes conducted by the coalition on 14th June, and the UN's funds are drying up.

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HADI GOVERNMENT AT ALL COSTS? 


• After 8 years of war one must ask why the coalition is still fighting; the Saudi coalition seeks to keep Yemen a Sunni state, and the US depends on Saudi oil. 

• Blockades and airstrikes have failed to drive out the Houthis, with the stalemate only deepening the agony of the Yemeni people as violence intensifies. 

• The war is now nothing more than an unwillingness to retreat that could cost millions of Yemenis their lives; a cost intensified by COVID-19 – a cost far too great.

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