The Yemeni disaster – a history and understanding

The Ummah should look to support Yeman and remember them them in their duas.

Yemen has a complex and tumultuous history, influenced by historic divisions between it’s prominent Islamic sects, Zaydi Shīʿism and Shafi‘ Sunnism.

However, traditional tribal and regional disputes based on old north/south divisions have heavily influenced political ruptures. The Houthis are a rreligious group originating from Zaydism, who have historically leveraged control over the northern province of Saada. Since 2015, the Rebel Houthis have fought against Saudi coalition forces (in support of the deposed president Hadi) in a civil war which has involved both sides trying to gain control of Yemen.

The Arab Spring

The Arab Spring of 2011 saw Yemenis protest against the authoritarian practices of President Saleh, whose long tenure in office outlasted even that of Egypt’s ousted Hosni Mubarak. Allegations of corruption and mismanagement along with Yemen’s status as the poorest country in the Middle East led to student protests calling for progressive national politics. Yemenis were inspired by mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt and consequently began calling for the resignation of President Saleh after 30 years in office. Over 16,000 protestors took to the streets of Sana’a on 27 January and state security forces ominously repressed demonstrations with brutality and coercion. President Saleh’s reputation further plummeted as Islamic clerics rebuked the government for mercilessly killing citizens.

President Saleh was eventually ousted and replaced by his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was backed by Riyadh.

Protesters in Yemen have demanded President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s removal. Here, demonstrators march in Sanaa

The War

But in 2014, a political vacuum was exploited by the Houthis, who realigned themselves with the deposed President Saleh. Paired with the army, which retained allegiance to Saleh and his family, Hadi was ousted amid criticism of subservience to the Saudi’s and mismanagement of the country’s resources. He went into exile and was supported by a Saudi-led coalition which sought to protect his ‘legitimate’ government and defend its own border with Yemen. This was a fight against a Houthi insurgency that had seized control of Yemen’s capital and governmental institutions in 2014.

Since March 2015, the United States has supported the Saudi-led coalition, which consists of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and other allies of the Saudi regime. Only Oman and Pakistan did not join this alliance. The Obama administration backed Saudi Arabia, America’s historical ally of the region, by offering logistical aid and intelligence information and refueling Saudi warplanes. Despite this, the US has defended itself and denied culpability in the conflict. But the naval and air blockade of Houthi-controlled territory has led to the biggest humanitarian disaster of the century. Restricted food and fuel imports have decimated resources and rendered the treatment of casualties highly unlikely. Millions of Yemenis are at risk of famine and already subject to the biggest outbreak of Cholera in the twentieth century.


More recently, Senators Rand Paul and Chris Murphy have attempted to halt American weapon sales to the Saudi war effort and shed light on the plight of civilians in Yemen. Accountability must be held for the humanitarian atrocities; the United Nations Security Council argued for a resolution to the conflict so that Yemenis could access vital supplies. Despite the failure of the Senators’ resolution, a renewed discussion on the devastation wreaked in Yemen has occurred in Western political conscious.

In December 2018, a round of peace talks occurred in Stockholm, Sweden, with the agreement of a ceasefire and withdrawal of Rebel troops from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah. The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, has lauded this breakthrough in peace talks, hoping foreign aid can alleviate suffering. However, more recently, surveys by the UN agency said people in the capital Sanaa had not received rations to which they were entitled with reports of the World Food Programme demanding the Houthi movement stops diverting the desperately needed aid from people under its control.

At least 6,800 civilians have been killed and 10,700 injured in the fighting, according to the UN. Thousands more civilians have died from preventable causes, including malnutrition, disease and poor health.

May Allah give the victims of war patience and health

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