Country Profile

Yemen

Summary

Although conflicts in Yemen are driven by localised causes, the use of religious differences, especially charged sectarian language, continues to provide plausible motivations for their continuation, masking their political and contingent nature. Increased militarisation of local conflicts is likely to cause further outbreaks of violence and instability across Yemen, while the absence of state control over large areas of the country provides opportunities to local militant groups for territorial expansion and the recruitment of supporters. Meanwhile the co-option of Islamist groups by the Yemeni regime, in order to bolster its ability to constrain rival political actors, has inevitably led to conflicts that, while seeming to be driven by sectarianism, are in essence the manifestation of mostly localised yet deeply rooted political and social grievances against the regime. 

1The unification of the Yemen Arab Republic and the southern People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1990 brought together the largely Zaydi Shi'a population of north Yemen with the Shafi'i Sunni population of the south, a divide that is being increasingly manipulated for political purposes.

2Yemen's January 2011 youth uprisings, which became the longest lasting of the recent peaceful protests in the Arab world, changed the political landscape and had a profound effect on the dynamics of conflict in the country.

3A perennial inability on the part of the state to establish control over large parts of the country has catalysed the rise of various local and regional actors, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the resurgent Shia Houthi movement.

4Recent Houthi expansionism has resulted in the resignation of the transitional government and the signing of the 'Peace and National Partnership Agreement', ensuring the appointment of Houthi advisors to any new government formed.

Situation Report

The Republic of Yemen emerged in 1990 as a by-product of the end of the Cold War and the unification of the northern Yemen Arab Republic and the southern People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). The unification brought about significant changes in the demographic make up of the new country, joining the Zaydi Shi'a population of north Yemen with the Shafi'i Sunni population of the south. However, owing to centuries of peaceful co-existence and to the fact that the Zaydi sect is much closer in its religious practices to Sunni Islam than to its Shi'a heritage, the unification of the country did not per se cause friction between the two communities. Today, Yemeni followers of these two Islamic schools are practically indistinguishable from one another, but their presence in the country remains largely geographically determined. The Zaydis are concentrated in the areas of the north, in the cities of Sa'dah and Sana'a, and inhabit the north-western highlands. The Shafi'is, which are numerically superior, occupy the central lowlands, around the cities of Ta'izz and Ibb, and the coastal plains of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden into the eastern governorate of Hadhramaut.

Although it is nominally a multi-party parliamentary democracy, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) has dominated the politics of Yemen since unification. This allowed him to consolidate his authoritarian rule, alienating in the process key partners of his regime. In 2011, as Saleh reached his thirty-third year in power, divisions within the regime came to the fore as a youth uprising gripped Yemen in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. Throughout that year young, educated, middle class Yemenis succeeded in forging a broad civic revolutionary movement bringing together activists, women, tribes-people and a cross-section of supporters of the country's political parties to pressure Saleh to resign. This initiated a two-year political transition process intended to lead the country to a new constitutional and political settlement. However, by the summer of 2014 the most tangible results of the transitional process were the conclusion of the year long National Dialogue Conference and the commencement of a draft constitution, aiming to put in place a federal system dividing the country into six distinct federal regions.

  • Global Overview
  • 1. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: September 2016 11
  • 2. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: August 2016 10
  • 3. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: July 2016 11
  • 4. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: June 2016 6
  • 5. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: May 2016 16
  • 6. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: April 2016 13
  • 7. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: March 2016 7
  • 8. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: February 2016 16
  • 9. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: January 2016 21
  • Extremism
  • Fatalities: Civilians: September 2016 59
  • Fatalities: Extremism: September 2016 123
  • Fatalities: Non-State Actors: September 2016 3
  • Fatalities: Security Forces: September 2016 94
  • Counter-Extremism
  • Counter-Extremism Incidents: September 2016 31
  • State Counter-Extremism: Arrests: September 2016 5
  • State Counter-Extremism: Statements: September 2016 1
  • State Counter-Extremism: Use of Force: September 2016 27