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Yemen - summary of 28 years of history

In just 28 years of existence, insurrections, conflicts, riots, terrorist attacks

and wars have weakened and divided this country which is the poorest in the Middle East.

Let’s retrace on a map, since its creation, the history of the Republic of Yemen.

We begin in 1988 when Yemen was divided in two.

In the south, there is People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, whose capital is Aden.

It is the only communist country in the Middle East, led by a single party and allied with the USSR.

Although the country is vast, it is mostly desert

and populated by approximately 2 and a half million inhabitants.

In the north, the Arab Republic of Yemen, with its capital Sanaa is an Islamic state.

The country has 7 million inhabitants and is more prosperous.

As the Cold War draws to a close, the USSR is weakened,

causing it to reduce financial aid to South Yemen.

This pushes the country closer to its neighbor, paving the way for reunification talks.

Two years later, in 1990, the Republic of Yemen is born.

The former president of North Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was already in power for 11 years,

took the reins of the new country.

While the former president of South Yemen, Ali Salem al-Beidh, became vice president.

Sana'a becomes its capital and the population is majority Muslim

with about 35 percent Zaidi Shiite and 65 percent Sunnis.

Soon after independence, the country takes a stand against intervention in Iraq during the Gulf War.

In response the West and Arab countries cut off its financial support.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile harasses the many Yemeni workers on its territory.

With the country in financial difficulty, and seeing no improvement,

Vice President al-Beidh leads the charge to regain independence for South Yemen.

After a short civil war, the north prevails

and the post of vice president is given to the Minister of Defense Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

In 1997, a jihadist insurgency begins with al Qaeda in Yemen

that takes aim at loyalist forces and the United States.

The government launches a fight against the terrorist organization.

In 2004, Zaidi Shia tribes in the north complain of being marginalized and begin a new insurrection.

The rebels call themselves Houthis, which is the name of their leader killed the same year by the army.

The group is ideologically anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist.

In the south, there is continued frustration caused by Yemen’s reunification.

In 2007, enters the "Southern Movement," a separatist political group,

which participates in the Yemeni revolution in 2011.

Encouraged by the Arab Spring, people take to the streets to demand an end to corruption,

a healthier economy and lower unemployment.

Saleh tries to cling to power but is eventually replaced by his vice president Hadi

who initiates discussions exploring a more democratic restructuring of government.

Two years later, the proposed reforms are weak and the Houthis feel resentful,

having inherited no political power in their region.

They take up arms and begin the Yemeni civil war,

this time with the support of part of the population

and forces loyal to former President Saleh who tried to return to power.

Together, they conquer Sanaa, forcing Hadi to flee to Aden and then to Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf Cooperation Council condemns what it called a coup.

Against the backdrop of the regional conflict, Saudi Arabia accuses Iran, predominantly Shiite,

of militarily supporting the Houthi rebellion.

In addition, the country does not want to see the Bab El Mandeb Strait,

the 4th most important global sea crossing point for oil, in rebel hands.

Saudi Arabia then sets up an international coalition of 9 predominantly Sunni Muslim countries

to restore Hadi to power.

They receive support in logistics and intelligence from the United States.

The coalition begins by bombarding strategic installations,

while the UN imposes an embargo against the sale of arms to the Houthis and their allies.

In July, the coalition takes over Aden, where Hadi and his government move.

The focus of the coalition advance shifts to the gates of Taiz.

Although the coalition is better equipped,

its lack of experience in the field regularly results in defeat and prevents it from gaining the upper hand.

When coalition military advancements dry up, they step up aerial bombardment.

Civilian populations very often become victims and get stuck in the crossfire.

In October, Haydan Hospital is bombed.

The UN condemns the strikes, and calls for talks to negotiate a peace treaty which would not succeed.

In addition to air strikes,

the coalition imposes an embargo on ports and airports controlled by the Houthis.

Only aid shipments are allowed, which prove insufficient for the population suffering a humanitarian crisis.

As a result, more than 2 million people are internally displaced in Yemen.

At the end of 2016 begins a cholera epidemic

that infects up to 1 million people and leaves more than 2,200 dead.

The UN estimated that 7 million Yemenis, or a quarter of the country, were close to starvation.

In Sanaa, Saleh broke his alliance with the Houthis to try a diplomatic approach with Saudi Arabia.

In retaliation, he was killed a few days later by the Houthis.

In Aden, Hadi has a hard time projecting authority and uniting the locals.

The Southern Movement creates the Transitional Council,

a secessionist organization that quickly takes control of the city and the presidential palace.

The group receives support from the United Arab Emirates, which distances itself from the coalition.

The Emirati let up on their fight against the Houthis to focus on Al Qaeda

and to peddle their influence on the Yemeni island of Socotra, on which they set their sights.

In retaliation of ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia,

the coalition further intensifies airstrikes, especially in the north.

Forces loyal to Hadi attempt to retake Hodeida's strategic port

in order to cut off Houthis’ access to the sea.

In Aden, the Southern Transitional Council strengthens with Emirati support,

who had to leave the island of Socotra after an intervention by Saudi Arabia.

In the east of Yemen, after many drone attacks by the United States,

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula takes advantage of the chaos in the country

and strengthens its grip on power.

Other terrorist groups emerge into the fray, including the Islamic State.

The country is completely divided and it is the Yemeni population that pays the ultimate price

with more than 10,000 dead in 4 years.

According to the UN, the blockade imposed on the country

has caused the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet.

All this, while the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates increases,

resulting in big profits mainly for the United States, Great Britain and France.