Yemen Crisis Timeline 20th January, 2019
Yemen’s history is plagued with both civil and international conflict; from its origins to its more recent battles, the country’s civil concerns and issues have culminated in hundreds of thousands of deaths – mostly including innocent civilians. The continual conflict has destroyed the country’s infrastructure, with some families having known only poverty for their entire lives.
Despite these shocking reports that are circulated, it can be easy to forget just how long these conflicts have been going on for, and the gravity of what the Yemeni people have been through to date. Our Yemen Crisis Timeline highlights just how severe the conflicts have been.
Britain Takes Aden and the Ottomans Move In
European interest in creating a lasting presence in the Middle East - combined with the threat of local pirates - lead Britain to take the port city of Aden. Over time, they expanded north and east, forming a protectorate over the local settlements. Simultaneously, the Ottoman Empire sought to create a power base of their own and moved into the area north of Britain’s new Middle Eastern acquisition.
The Birth of North and South Yemen
There was a conflict between the British and the Ottomans which resulted in a joint commission meeting and the creation of a treaty that concluded a fixed border between the two territories. The Ottoman controlled area became North Yemen and the British protectorates were unified under the title of South Yemen.
Ottoman Dissolution and North Yemen Independence
At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was beginning to fall apart and collapse which allowed the citizens of North Yemen to become independent. Imam Yahya, a long time opposer of the Ottoman rule in the country, took over leadership of the country and began battling the tribes to solidify his control. Meanwhile, the British maintained their presence in South Yemen.
North Yemeni Dissatisfaction and Unrest
Imam Yahya’s attempts to solidify his position in North Yemen had slowly stopped being effective and towards the end of World War II, dissatisfaction with the Imam’s leadership was sweeping through the country.
Imam Yahya’s Assassination
The dissatisfaction with Imam Yahya’s leadership ultimately culminated in his assassination, led by a rival Sayyid family – the Alwaziris. The Alwaziris wanted to take power for themselves and after the assassination, they introduced their own Imam. This only lasted a few weeks, as Imam Yahya’s son, Ahmad bin Yahya, travelled through the tribes of North Yemen and rallied support for his cause. This ultimately led to the deposition of the Alwaziri leader and Ahmad bin Yahya assuming his father’s old position of Imam and King.
Imam Ahmad bin Yahya’s Death and the Civil War
Imam Ahmad bin Yahya died in his sleep and his son took his place as Imam but shortly after he assumed power, rebel forces led by the military, seized power of the country and declared that North Yemen (originally known as the Kingdom of Yemen) was now the Yemen Arab Republic. Abdullah al-Sallal took charge of the newfound Republic but a civil war broke out between those who supported the royal family and the Republicans. Each side sought support from the country’s neighbours, with the Republicans gaining assistance from Egypt and the royalists being backed by Saudi Arabia.
Britain Leaves – South Yemeni Independence
Inspired by North Yemen, two nationalist groups in South Yemen – the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF) – began to put pressure on the British control in the country. Ultimately, this led to Britain leaving the country and the formal creation of the People’s Republic of Southern Yemen, led by the NLF. Over the next couple of years, the new country’s lack of resources or aid led it to begin aligning with the Soviet Union, shifting the politics of the government into a firmly Marxist direction, resulting in the restructure of the country and a renaming to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDYR) in 1970.
The North Yemeni Civil War Ends – Republican Victory
The fighting concluded with the Compromise of 1970, an Egyptian and Saudi Arabian backed agreement that founded a republican government in North Yemen. The terms of the agreement included having royalist members in positions of power in the government, though forbid the Imam from having any role in North Yemen’s politics.
Border Wars and Unification Intentions
With the two countries under fixed, independent leadership for the first time in history, there were rumours of a potential unification. These were initially hampered by small border battles between the two nations but after the conflict was concluded, a committee was formed to draft the future constitution of the unified state, though the committee wasn’t particularly successful.
Increased Tension and Border Wars
The desire to unify was significantly hampered by the widening political differences between North and South Yemen. In 1979, these opposing ideologies culminated in another short border war which was halted by the Arab League. The war was, again, concluded with the announcement of an intention to unite.
The Dhamar Earthquake
The Dhamar province of North Yemen was hit with a strong earthquake in late 1982, resulting in close to 3,000 casualties, many injuries and 70,000 damaged homes. It’s estimated that the earthquake affected over 500,000 people, including those in the capital of North Yemen – Sana’a.
South Yemen Civil War
Throughout the early 1980s, the ruling party of South Yemen – the Yemeni Social Party (YSP) – was experiencing an intense ideological split. The tension between the two groups led to an 11-day period of civil unrest in January 1986, during which 10,000 people died and most of the YSP’s senior members were removed from power. This allowed a more moderate group of politicians, led by Haidar Abu Bakr al-Attas to take control. It was this group that pioneered Yemen’s unification.
Prompted by the recent discovery of oil in both countries and the waning Soviet Union support for South Yemen, the two countries decided to put aside their differences and unite under the name of the Republic of Yemen. Ali Abdallah Saleh was proclaimed the country’s first president but at a fundamental level, the ideological differences of the two nations still ran deep and there was tension between the regions.
Yemen Civil War
The ever-present tension between the two groups eventually built to a climactic point and resulted in a two-month civil war that claimed between 7,000 and 10,000 lives. The former leaders of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) that had led South Yemen began to command their armed forces to fight against the northern region, with the hope of separating the countries once more. President Saleh recognised the issue and immediately moved to quell the rebellion, defeating the southern forces and sending most of the YSPs leaders and supporters into exile.
In 1995, Yemen was on the brink of economic collapse, caused by the destructiveness of the civil war, and President’s Saleh’s regime pushed to address this. They began by focusing on the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s reform package, which was designed to revolutionise the country’s structure and promote financial development. Whilst the Saleh regime took the initial steps for the package to work, towards the end for the millennium, the government became increasingly stubborn and refused to bend on its political stance, preventing some of the key reforms. This left Yemen’s economy in dire straits, with widespread unemployment and malnourishment.
At the start of the new millennium, the terrorist group Al-Qaeda was coming to the forefront of the world’s consciousness. One of its first acts was the suicide bombing of an American naval ship that was resupplying in Aden, leading to 17 deaths and later, further terrorist attacks on oil tankers and within the country during election periods. This amplified the country’s struggling economic issues.
The Houthi Rebellion was a religiously charged resistance to President Saleh’s regime after the government tried to arrest the religious leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi in 2004. Over the 11-year period, the country’s infrastructure suffered significant damage and approximately 25,000 people lost their lives, with 250,000 displaced and forced to leave their homes.
Yemen’s deteriorating infrastructure and inability to provide clean resources for its people resulted in the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. 2,100 people died from the disease, with a further 900,000 affected.
Al-Hudaydah Port Seizure and Separatist Struggles
Southern Yemen separatists worked with the United Arab Emirates to seize control of Aden and months later, the United States worked towards a ceasefire around the port of Hudaydah, a crucial location for allowing aid and foodstuffs into the country.
Our Yemen Crisis Timelines shows the depths of the unrest these people have faced over the last century and with no clear end in sight for most recent conflict, innocent citizens are suffering. They need our help to remain hopeful which is why Islamic Help is currently working to support hospitals and families throughout Yemen by supplying food, water and medical aid, particularly for orphans and disabled children.
Please help us make a difference by donating to our Yemen Emergency Appeal today.