Forgotten Conflict: Yemen Civil War

Forgotten Conflict: Yemen Civil War

This article is part of a series that will be released before the end of 2015, drawing from The Contour‘s annual print issue titled Upheaval, Revolution & Tragedy: The World of 2015 which can be found online at The Contour: Print Edition


Global Citizen has called the crisis in Yemen the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” Yemen being the poorest country in the region. Like many conflicts in the Middle East, insurgent groups have destabilized the government.

The War in Yemen links back to the 1990 unification of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in the north and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in the south. Dissatisfied Houthis, a minority rebel group that follows a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism, ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in a coup d’état. The Houthis opposed President Hadi’s Sunni-run, Shia-discriminate government. Hadi, forced to flee the capital, is supported by a militia located in southern Yemen called the Popular Resistance Committee. Meanwhile a politically influential predecessor of Hadi named Ali Abdullah Saleh backs the Houthis.

Although the Houthis have seized complete power by ousting Hadi, they are still not recognized by Sunni tribesmen in the region as well as powerful neighboring Sunni nations such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan. These nations have allied with President Hadi in a joint coalition led by Saudi Arabia and have launched air strikes against Houthi forces. In a larger power struggle, Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia condemn each other for helping the Houthis and Hadi’s forces respectively.

As a result of the clashes between these two forces, various problems have emerged. Not only has Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gained tremendous support against both the Houthis and Hadi’s government amidst the upheaval, but a Yemeni group associated with the jihadist Islamic State has also grown in popularity. Both of these extremist groups have fought to out-do each other with various attacks and suicide bombings.

In response, many Yemeni people have fled while others are caught in the conflict. Yemeni citizens are running out of food, water, and other basic supplies in a nation due to blockades and attacks. More than ten million Yemenis are not receiving adequate food. One hospital staff member mentioned, “We don’t have the staff or supplies we need. You can’t treat children with words.”

Yemen is strategically located on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a canal connecting the Gulf Aden and the Red Sea through which a considerable amount of the world’s oil shipments travel. Thus, though the scope of the Yemeni crisis is regional, world leaders have been prompted to consider the Crisis’s effect on the international oil exchange. Some are hopeful that it will motivate countries to seek powerful solutions to resolve conflict and maintain peace. For now, however, developments have been slow.  

Matthews Joy ’16