Updated: March 2012
2011 Yemen experienced its Arab Spring early in the year. Starting in January, protests criticizing the government began in the capital of Sana’a, soon turning violent when government forces clashed with protesters. The uprising in Yemen left an estimated 2,000 dead. Both the Southern Movement and the Houthis joined in on the pro-democracy movement. In November, President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down as part of an internationally supported agreement. Vice-President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi took over his responsibilities. As a condition of his agreement to cede power, Saleh and his family were to remain immune from prosecution. Much of southern Yemen, especially Abyan Province, was captured by AQAP in the first half of 2011. AQAP gained control of the city of Jaar in March.
2010 Seven months of intense fighting between the government and Houthi rebels came to an end with a ceasefire in February. But sporadic violence continued throughout the year between Houthi rebels and pro-government tribesmen, killing hundreds. Under foreign pressure, the government turned most of its military attention to al-Qaeda, declaring “open war” on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in January. AQAP attacks on government and foreign targets, as well as government offensives against AQAP killed hundreds throughout the year. AQAP launched its first attacks against Houthi rebels. Continuing tension with separatists in the South resulted in dozens of deaths. As the Yemeni government faced increased opposition from multiple fronts and al-Qaeda’s influence grew, analysts began to characterize Yemen as a failed state.
2009 Conflict at the start of the year was characterized by tensions between government forces and the secessionist movement in the South. By August, focus shifted to Yemen’s Northern conflict. A major offensive by the military was launched against the rebels with some of the most violent attacks since the conflict began in 2004. In November, conflict spilled over Yemen’s border and into Saudi Arabia for the first time, leading to the Saudis becoming openly engaged in the conflict. By the end of December, Saudi forces suspended major military operations but stated that they would still hunt down small groups of rebels. This year also saw a more explicit al-Qaeda influence in the conflict. Officials estimate that some 175,000 people have been displaced since the onset of the conflict. Local elections scheduled for April 2009 were suspended for two years in a parliamentary decision.
2008 This year saw some of the fiercest fighting since the start of the government-rebel conflict, in what has been referred to as the fourth outbreak of hostilities since 2004. Clashes of violence in early 2008 pushed both government and rebel groups away from a ceasefire. Thousands of Yemeni civilians continued to be internally displaced as their homes and villages were destroyed. Many sought refuge in national and international aid camps, where relief supplies were largely inadequate. Violence eased in late 2008, allowing for a ceasefire and prisoner exchange by both the government and rebel groups. Multiparty parliamentary elections were to be held in early 2009.
2007 The fighting between Yemeni government forces and the rebel group Shabab al-Moumineen (The Youthful Believers) in 2007 was the third outbreak of hostilities between the two sides since June 2004, and the year in which the total number of casualties surpassed the 1,000-death threshold. Shabab al-Moumineen rejected the Yemeni government, which they said was corrupt and too compliant with the U.S. and Israeli governments. Many suspected followers of Shabab al-Moumineen were detained in 2004 and 2005, but the Yemeni government released more than 600 detainees in 2006. Elections held in September 2006 were generally considered free and fair with President Ali Abdullah Saleh being re-elected by a large majority. Several thousand are estimated to have been killed in the three outbreaks of violence, with tens of thousands estimated to have been displaced from their homes. An uneasy June 2007 ceasefire agreement lasted throughout the remainder of the year and with the help of the Qatari government, the agreement’s 10-point plan is intended for implementation in 2008.
1. The Yemeni Government: led by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi who has taken over the role of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down from power during the Yemen uprising in 2011.
2. Saudi Arabia: a long-time ally of North Yemen, as well as the government of Yemen since its reunification in 1990. Saudi Arabia provides substantial military assistance to Yemen, and supports the government’s opposition to Houthi rebels, as well as its opposition to Southern separatists and its fight against al-Qaeda. In 2009, Saudi Arabia was actively involved in fighting against Houthi rebels, when conflict spilled over the border, and in 2010 continued to be involved in conflict with the rebels at the Saudi border.
3. The United States: supports Saleh’s regime and provides substantial military aid to Yemen. With the rise of al-Qaeda in Yemen, the United States has increased its support to the government, including military aid and sending special forces to help train Yemen’s army. Some reports indicate that the United States has actively participated in military assaults against al-Qaeda.
4. Pro-government tribesmen: Tribesmen in the northern Sa’dah Governate have also been implicated in fighting against Houthi rebels. Houthi rebels allege that the government is supporting tribesmen to continue attacks against them, despite numerous ceasefires and agreements. In the South, pro-government tribesmen have also been implicated in fighting with separatists, and have also been used by the government to hunt down al-Qaeda members.
5. Houthi rebels, also known as Shabab al-Moumineen (translated as “The Believing Youth” or “The Young Faithful Believers”): Originally founded and run by Zaydi religious figure Hussein al-Houthi, whose death at the hands of government forces in 2004 led to a power shift to his elderly father Badr Eddin Houthi and his brother Abdul Malak Houthi. The Houthi rebels have an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 fighters. In addition to opposing the Yemeni government, the Houthi rebels also fiercely oppose al-Qaeda.
6. Iran and Libya: Yemen alleges that both Iran and Libya have been supplying funding and assistance to Shabab al-Moumineen, an involvement that the Iranian and Libyan governments have wholly denied. In 2009, the Yemeni navy said it seized an Iranian-crewed ship loaded with weapons off the coast of a stronghold of the Houthi rebels. Iran denied involvement but there are rising fears that the conflict in northern Yemen could become a proxy war between Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran.
7. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP): Al-Qaeda has been present in the region since the 1990s, and in 2009 the local Yemeni and Saudi al-Qaeda branches merged to become AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). AQAP claimed it had come together with a base in Yemen to establish an Islamic State in the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP has called upon tribal leaders in Yemen to fight against the government, and has also supported the secessionist movement in the South. AQAP also opposes the Houthi rebels, as it has opposed Shia Muslims elsewhere, and began launching attacks against them in 2010, claiming they “kill Sunnis, destroy their homes and displace their families.”
8. Southern Movement: Yemen’s 1994 civil war ended with the defeat of the secessionist movement in the South. In 2007, however, a group called the Southern Movement was established, calling for the succession of the South and re-establishment of an independent Southern state. While the movement has been largely peaceful, separatist combatants, government forces, and pro-government tribesmen have been drawn into increasing violence. The movement includes a network of tribes that has pledged allegiance to the idea of a separate Southern state.
2011 Government forces clashed with pro-democracy protesters, leaving an estimated 2,000 dead. Despite international pressure, violence marked much of the year in many parts of the country. A June attempt to assassinate President Ali Abdullah Saleh forced him to temporarily go to Saudi Arabia for treatment from injuries sustained.
The Southern Movement in Yemen gained strength and popular support in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. Starting in March, many protests were held in the areas around the south. By July, most of the government forces in the central city of Aden had been driven out of the region.
The Houthi rebellion joined in the pro-democracy protests in Sana’a. Houthi rebels gained strength in Sa’dah, with the Houthis declaring an independent province of Sa’dah in March, when government officials fled. The Houthi rebels continued fighting against tribal armies and gained control in various towns and villages near the northern Syrian border.
Al-Qaeda’s operations in Yemen suffered a blow when high-profile leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone attack in September. Parts of southern Yemen, especially Abyan Province were captured by AQAP in the first half of 2011. AQAP gained control of the city of Jaar in March taking over the city. In May, 300 Al-Qaeda linked militants entered the city of Zinjibar and pushed out government security forces. AQAP maintained checkpoints in much of the region in order to maintain control. In mid-July, the Yemen government began air strikes in the area, regaining some control, although the battle continued in the area. Abyan Province also witnessed clashes between AQAP and Southern Movement militants.
2010 Major fighting between Houthi rebels and the government, which began in mid-2009, was brought to an end with a ceasefire on Feb. 12. But sporadic violence between Houthi rebels and pro-government tribes continued throughout the year with deaths in the hundreds. Violence flared up, particularly in July, leaving up to 80 dead, with the Houthi rebels saying they broke the ceasefire because the government was supporting other tribes to fight against them. Clashes at the Saudi border in November led to dozens of Houthi rebel deaths, while the same month saw AQAP carry out its first attack directed specifically at Houthi rebels, killing up to 40. In 2010, under foreign pressure, the government turned most of its military attention to al-Qaeda, and declared “open war” on AQAP in January. AQAP launched a number of attacks against the Yemeni government, and claimed responsibility for a series of attacks aimed at foreigners and international targets, including letter bombs destined for the United States but intercepted in Europe in October. The government launched a number of military offensives against suspected AQAP strongholds throughout the year, including a controversial “manhunt” in October in which 2,500 pro-government tribesmen were given ammunition and a daily stipend to hunt down al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. The government claimed to have killed up to 30 AQAP members. But its August offensive in Loder displaced 80,000 and lead to the deaths of civilians, and its September offensive in Shawna province displaced 15,000. Tension between the government and Southern separatists also continued throughout the year, with large anti-government protests and a series of campaigns to arrest separatists. These clashes became more deadly than in earlier years, leading to dozens of deaths.
2009 Tensions in the North increased through the early part of the year, displacing 3,500 people since May. By August, a major offensive was underway between military forces and the Houthi rebels, during which the Yemeni government vowed to hit fighters with an “iron fist.” Subsequently, the army launched some of the strongest offensives seen in the conflict’s five-year history. From the onset of fighting, there was speculation about covert involvement from Saudi Arabia and Iran with Iranian radio accusing the Saudi air force of taking part in attacks against the rebels. Yemeni government and Saudi officials denied the claims. Conflict spilled over Yemen’s border for the first time in the insurgency with a clash between Saudi forces and Yemeni rebels, killing a Saudi border guard. November saw a major development as Saudi Arabia became openly engaged in the conflict, conducting aerial bombings on Houthi positions. By mid-December, Saudi Arabia appeared to be taking the lead in the conflict. Saudi forces locked down both the border and Yemen’s Red Sea coastline in order to cut off the rebels’ supply of arms and food. Major military operations by Saudi forces were suspended Dec. 23 after almost 50 days of fighting. In November, al-Qaeda’s presence was noted as suspected militants killed seven Yemeni security officials near the Saudi border and the government began to turn its attention more to al-Qaeda. Tensions continued between the government and the secessionist South Yemen movement. Although more open unrest erupted again in October, this conflict has been overshadowed by conflict in the North and growing concern about al-Qaeda.
2008 Early 2008 saw a step back from the 2007 Qatari mediation which sought to end violence in the region. A violent outbreak in early January between government forces and Houthi rebels in the northern Sa’ada province resulted in 30 casualties. This breakdown of the 2007 Qatar ceasefire prompted a state-of-emergency declaration. Observers to the conflict report that the escalation of recent violence was the most dramatic since the emergence of government and rebel conflict in 2004. In September, the largest attack on Yemeni soil since the 2002 bombing of the French supertanker Limburg occurred when a double suicide car bombing at the U.S. embassy reportedly killed 17 people. Islamic Jihad, a new group inspired by al-Qaeda in Yemen—who themselves claimed responsibility for a July suicide bomb attack against a building housing Yemeni security forces which reportedly killed 10 and wounded 12—took responsibility.
2007 The third wave of fighting in the sporadic three-year insurgency between the government and Shabab al-Moumineen began at the end of January 2007. The recent fighting was more intense than in the previous outbreaks of 2004 and 2005, which claimed 500 to 1,000 and 1,500 lives respectively. There was no data with regards to casualties in 2006, but they were said to be significantly lower than those of the previous year. Renewed fighting in 2007 saw over 500 deaths in the first two months of fighting alone. An uncertain ceasefire suspended fighting in June and has lasted into the New Year, but tensions in the region remain high as the Qatari government attempts to assist the Yemeni government in implementing the 10-point plan agreed to in a June 2007 ceasefire agreement.
Total: Between 3,820 and 5,820 militants and civilians are reported to have been killed since the first outbreak of violence between the government and Houthi rebels on June 18, 2004. While accurate numbers are difficult to obtain because of media censorship, most deaths are said to be military and rebel casualties with civilian fatalities being in the hundreds. As of June 2010, the UNHCR reported 316,332 registered Internally Displaced Persons in Yemen, mainly displaced by conflict in the North. In 2010, fighting between the government and AQAP led to more than 80 deaths and 95,000 displaced, and fighting with Southern secessionists led to at least 40 deaths. [Sources: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Yemen. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 2004-2008; International Crisis Group reports; news media reports.]
2011 Pro-democracy protests left more than 2,000 dead, including 120 children, and 22,000 injured. The conflict involving AQAP resulted in at least 400 deaths, according to information compiled through the American Enterprise Institute.
2010 According to International Crisis Group and available media reports, between 380 and 550 people died in the armed conflict this year. Between 195 and 281 were killed in clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government tribesmen, with most of the deaths on the Houthi side. An additional 20 Houthi rebels were killed in clashes at the Saudi border, and 23 to 40 were killed by AQAP. Thirty-one AQAP members and 31 separatist combatants were reported dead. A total of around 100 government combatants were killed: 25 to 40 in fighting with Houthi rebels; 9 in clashes with Southern separatists; and at least 50 killed by AQAP. A minimum of 25 to 41 civilians were killed, though the censoring of media reports makes precise figures difficult to obtain.
2009 According to the International Crisis Group, 743 people were killed in the armed conflict in Yemen in 2009. In terms of militants, 67 were al-Qaeda operatives and 263 were Houthi rebels. From the government side, 119 killed were Yemeni forces and 73 were Saudi forces. Among civilians, 277 were killed, including seven foreigners.
2008 No official fatality figures were available and media coverage of the conflicts was restricted. But there were reports of more than 50 civilian deaths and the U.S. Department of State reported that 1,000 government troops were killed in May alone.
2007 An estimated 700 to 1,000 government troops died as a result of continued fighting between the Yemeni Army and Shabab al-Moumineen. No official year-end figures were available for rebel or civilian deaths, but several hundred rebels and civilians were killed in the conflict in 2007. Tens of thousands of people were displaced from their homes this year in the northern province of Sa’ada.
2011 In January 2011, following similar popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, 17,000 protesters gathered in Sana’a to demand an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule. By Feb. 3, when protestors called for a Day of Rage, there were 20,000 protestors in Sana’a. The protestors called for Saleh to step down and for a democratic Yemen. The protests turned violent when government forces clashed with protesters. In November, Saleh stepped down as part of an internationally supported agreement. Vice-President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi took over his responsibilities. As a condition of his agreement to cede power, Saleh and his family were to remain immune from prosecution. Al-Qaeda’s operations in Yemen suffered a blow when high-profile leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone attack in September. AQAP gained control in Abyan Province, through fighting the government forces, who were stretched thin with the Yemen uprising. Different rebel factions continue to have violent clashes. Abyan Province witnessed clashes between AQAP and Southern Movement militants. The Southern Movement in Yemen gained strength and popular support in 2011 as part of the Yemen Uprising and the Arab Spring. Starting in March, many protests were held in the areas around the south. The Houthi rebellion joined in the pro-democracy protests in Sana’a.
2010 Houthi rebels and the government agreed to a ceasefire on Feb. 12, and despite continuing violence between Houthi rebels and pro-government tribesmen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared the war over on March 19. Prisoners on both sides were released in March. And in May, Saleh announced amnesty for nearly 300 jailed Houthi rebels and Southern separatists. Houthi rebels continued to insist the government failed to live up to its promises. On July, 3 senior Houthi leaders participated in talks with the government on political reform, though fighting later in the month threatened the talks. In August, Houthi leaders and the government signed an agreement in Doha, laying out a timetable for implementing a previously brokered peace agreement. In November, the ruling GPC announced that the national dialogue process had failed and April 2011 elections would take place with or without opposition. In December, the GPC-dominated parliament passed electoral-reform laws, sparking an opposition outcry. In January, after declaring “open war” on al-Qaeda, 150 clerics and general protesters warned that allowing U.S. intervention would only bolster support for Islamist militants. Anti-government protests by the Southern Movement also took place throughout the year. In January 2011, following similar popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, up to 17,000 protesters gathered in Sanaa to demand an end to Saleh’s rule.
2009 In March, Yemen’s ruling and opposition parties voted to postpone the country’s April parliamentary elections for two years. With respect to the conflict in Yemen’s South, the government moved to impose strict limitations on the media coverage. One journalist was sentenced to 14 months in jail for articles allegedly harming national unity. In May, the government suspended the publication of six other newspapers. Strict media limitations were also enforced in Yemen’s Northern conflict. A full media blackout made it nearly impossible to assess the scale of death, destruction and displacement.
2008 Following a revised ceasefire accord reached between the Yemeni government and the al-Houthi Shia rebels in early August, there was an exchange of prisoners between the parties. Despite this, small outbreaks of conflict continued to erupt to the end of the year. Steps were put in motion for multiparty parliamentary elections to be held in early 2009. Due to the fragile state of political affairs in Yemen, it was decided that international monitors would assist in the elections.
2007 The government and Shabab al-Moumineen reached a tentative ceasefire agreement in June 2007, which outlined plans for the government to reconstruct the war-affected areas while al-Houthi followers were to surrender their weapons. The deal remained shaky until a Feb. 1, 2008 deal, which was brokered by third parties in Qatar, was created to outline the implementation of the first agreement. Mohammed Mujur was named the new Prime Minister in April after Abdul-Kader Bajammal resigned on March 31. The government continued to accuse Iran and Libya of supporting rebel group Shabab al-Moumineen, but both governments denied involvement. President Ali Abdullah Saleh remained in power after the September 2006 presidential and local elections. The elections were considered generally “open and genuine”; however prior to elections, women’s groups rallied for more women candidates on a local level. More than 600 suspected al-Houthi supporters, who had been detained since the first wave of fighting between government forces and Shabab al-Moumineen in 2004, were released in March 2006.
The current conflict in Yemen between the government and Houthi rebels, as well as the secessionist movement in the south, are rooted in a variety of related historical and political developments during the last century.
By the beginning of the 20th century, North Yemen was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, while the South was a British Protectorate. North Yemen gained independence in 1918, and was ruled as a monarchy by Imam Yahya Mahmud al-Mutawwakil, and later one of his sons, both Imams of the Zaydi Hashemites, a Shia Muslim sect. While Zaydi power waned in the 19th century allowing Ottomans to take control, Zaydi Imams had ruled the region intermittently for 1,000 years, with Sa’ada serving as a stronghold of Zaydism in the predominantly Sunni Arabian peninsula. In 1962, however, a revolution and military coup overthrew the monarchy and North Yemen became a Republic. Fighting between the Republic government, with support from Egypt and monarchists loyal to the ousted Imam lasted until 1970, and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. Since the coup, Sa’ada has been largely ignored economically and remains underdeveloped. Outside the capital Sanaa, however, tribal leaders continue to maintain more power than the government. About one-third of Yemen’s current population are Zaydis. During the 1970s, Badr al-Din al-Houthi, a cleric from Sa’ada, promoted Zaydi revivalism, playing on fears that Saudi-influenced Salafis threatened Zaydi identity.
During this time of turmoil in the North, political changes in the South and tensions between the North and South also began to take shape. In 1967, South Yemen gained independence from Britain, after three years of armed conflict between British troops and pro-independence groups. In the early 1970s, the more traditionalist North Yemen drifted more to the political right and strengthened its ties with Saudi Arabia, while South Yemen aligned itself with the Soviet Union and implemented a number of socialist development policies. While reunification talks began as early as 1970, the following two decades were characterized by continuing tension between the North and the South, including two border wars (in 1972 and 1979), as well as continuing internal turmoil in the North between the government and various opposition groups.
In 1990, North and South Yemen officially reunified, becoming the Republic of Yemen. At the time of reunification, two-thirds of the country’s population was concentrated in the North, although the South is geographically twice the size. Despite reunification and a power-sharing arrangement, tensions remained, with many Southerners feeling that the Northerners had benefited more by the merger. In 1994, these tensions escalated into a civil war which ended with the defeat of the Southern secessionist forces. Many of the political and economic grievances of the secessionists remained unaddressed and, in 2007, a group called the Southern Movement was established, calling for the secession of the South and reestablishment of an independent Southern state.
Yemen’s reunification and civil war subsequently affected relations with Zaydis in the North. In the 1993 power-sharing government, Badr al-Din al-Houthi’s Zaydi revivalist movement spawned the al-Haq party and the Houthi-led Believing Youth (Shabab al-Moumineen), and his son Hussein was elected to parliament. During the civil war, the government received support from the Wahhabis, a strictly orthodox Sunni Mulsim sect, found in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and hostile to Shia Muslims. Zaydis have since maintained that the government has given the Wahhabis too strong a voice in Yemen, marginalizing Zaydis political and economically.
In 2004, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, now head of the Zaydi sect, launched an uprising against the government, maintaining that they are defending their community against discrimination and government aggression. The government, on the other hand, alleges that the Houthis sought to overthrow the government and establish Shia religious law. The government killed Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi in 2004, which led to further rounds of fighting, each more violent than the last. The Houthis have accused Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni government’s campaigns against them, while the government has accused Iran of supporting the rebels.
A relatively new dynamic to the political conflict in Yemen is the growth and establishment of al-Qaeda. While al-Qaeda has been present in the region since the 1990s, in 2009, the local Yemeni and Saudi al-Qaeda branches merged to become AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). AQAP claimed it had come together with a base in Yemen to establish an Islamic State in the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP has called upon tribal leaders in Yemen to fight against the government and has supported the secessionist movement in the South. As well, AQAP has met social and economic needs, including building religious schools, providing wells and jobs. As a result, AQAP has garnered some sympathy and recruits in the South. The Houthi rebels are vehemently opposed to AQAP because al-Qaeda is largely opposed to a Shia interpretation of Islam. Despite this, the government has garnered foreign support against Houthi rebels by claiming they had links to al-Qaeda and other so-called terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.
Russia is a primary weapons supplier to Yemen. In 2009, the government agreed to a $1-billion (U.S.) arms deal with Russia, which includes land, sea and air military equipment. Other countries that have supplied arms include France, Australia and the Czech Republic. In 2003 and 2004, Yemen received permission to use U.S. aid to purchase Russian MiG-29 fighter aircraft as part of the effort against terror. In 2010, the United States increased its commitment of military aid to $150-million, up from $67-million the previous year with the Pentagon earmarking $34-million for “tactical assistance.”
[The Military Balance 2003-2009; The Economist, April 22 2010]
The United States is an arms supplier to Saudi Arabia. In the late November 2010 Saudi attacks on Houthi targets, Saudi forces used Apache helicopters made by Chicago-based Boeing Company.
An oft-cited report states there are 60 million guns in Yemen, a country of 24 million people. However, a 2010 report by the German Technical Corporation (GTZ) more conservatively estimates there to be 11 million guns, which nevertheless represents one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world.
A vast weapons supply in the country means easy access to arms for rebels, and while the government has an arms-collection plan, it has yet to be completed.
Yemen is the poorest nation in the Arab world. It has the highest birthrate in the Middle East and almost half the nation’s children are malnourished. The country’s main export, oil, is expected to run dry in the next ten years and new gas fields are unlikely to be lucrative enough to replace it. The country’s water supply is also fast diminishing, and some predict that Saana will become the first capital city in the world to run out of water. To compound this problem, reports also note that the government’s military spending diverts funds for social and economic development. The Yemeni government has put the cost of its fighting against Houthi rebels from August 2009 to February 2010 alone at $850-million (U.S.).
Underdevelopment and economic marginalization have contributed to the Houthi conflict in the North, as well as the secessionist movement in the South and the rise of al-Qaeda in the region. After the 1962 coup in Sa’adah, the new Yemeni government largely ignored the region economically, leading it to become one of the most underdeveloped regions in the country and fuelling resentment. Separatists in the south maintain that the government’s policies have had negative economic repercussions on the region, which has an unemployment rate of over 50 per cent. Furthermore, most of Yemen’s oil reserves are located in the South, and Southerners complain that Northerners have seized these resources. Al-Qaeda has used this economic marginalization to its advantage, and gained sympathy and recruits by helping provide infrastructure, religious schools, weapons and a source of income to Southerners. In 2010, Saudi Arabia and the United States responded to this trend by increasing their development assistance to the region, pledging $1.25-billion (U.S.) and $63-million respectively. To this point, however, the amount of foreign military aid Yemen receives is far greater than assistance for economic development.
The role of poverty and underdevelopment in the conflict has been noted by presidential advisor, Abdel Karim Aryani, who views the high level of poverty in the nation to be the root cause of Yemen’s problems. Aryani believes the religious aspects of the conflicts are only building on people’s poverty and search for income, stating, “no one gets recruited free of charge.”
map: CIA Factbook