Category Archives: Aden

Hirak and the Houthis

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Southern Yemen After the Fall of Sanaa

by Susanne Dahlgren | MERIP, October 7, 2014

The mysteries in the September events in Sanaa loom large. Who decided that security forces should not try to stop the Houthis from entering the Yemeni capital? Why didn’t Hashid tribes, closely tied to the political elites of Sanaa, stop them? These are questions that southerners are asking when trying to make sense of what happened on September 21 when Ansar Allah, the militia of the Houthi political group, stormed the largest city in the north.

What many believe is that the Houthis were used by former president ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih to dislodge Maj. Gen. ‘Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, a long-time player in the Yemeni political elite and his former righthand man, and to weaken al-Ahmar’s political affiliate, the Islamist party known as Islah. For decades, the Sanhan tribe to which Salih and al-Ahmar belong has monopolized power in Sanaa, excluding not only the Houthis but also the biggest tribal confederation, the Bakil. These tensions have hindered state building in northern Yemen since the 1960s, but have very little to do with the south, where the hirak, a movement for autonomy from the capital, continues to build momentum.

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Wavell in Yemen: #1

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Market in Lahj

[Note: Arthur John Byng Wavell (1882-1916) was a British soldier and adventurer who traveled in disguise to Mecca in 1908 and went on to Yemen in 1911 to witness fighting between the Zaydi imam’s troops and the Ottoman Turks. This account was originally published in 1912.]

The events in that country [Yemen] are worthy of a chapter in the history of these prosaic days. The counter-currents of human interest and activity that run up and down the Red Sea, linking the civilizations of the East and West, leave undisturbed this backwater. Western Europe knows little and cares less about what goes on there.

Yet for the last twenty years, while the Turks and Arabs have been struggling for the mastery, the history of the Yemen has been one of fire and sword. It is a record of battles and sieges, places taken by storm and garrisons starved into surrender; of savage massacres and fierce reprisals. Generals have made and lost great military reputations there. The campaign of 1911, with which this book deals, probably cost nearly as many lives as did the Boer War. Nor is this conflict over; it will be renewed and fought out to the end, for both sides mean to win.

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Manzoni’s Travel Book in Arabic

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One of the classic late 19th century travel books on Yemen was by the Italian Renzo Manzoni.  In addition to an informative account of his trip to Sanaa, the illustrations are fantastic.  The original Italian version, El Yèmen: Tre Anni nell’ Arabia Felice, was published in 1884 and is available as a pdf online at archive.org. Recently the Social Fund for Development has sponsored an Arabic version, also available for free in pdf online.

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