Al-Mogahed ’18: Yemen and the backlash of foreign intervention

To understand the situation in Yemen, we should understand the historical and geographical facts about the country and the region. Yemen is located at the south end of the Arabian Peninsula where it shares most of its borders with Saudi Arabia. Until 1990, Yemen was divided into two countries; north Yemen, the Yemen Arab Republic, and south Yemen, People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Yemen is an Islamic country where the people are divided into the main sects of Islam, Sunni, and Shi’a. The majority of Yemeni people are Sunni Muslims, and there is a big minority of Shi’a Muslims in the north. Unlike its rich neighbors of Gulf Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Yemen has been struggling economically because of the lack of resources and political corruption.

In February of 2012, the Arab Spring phenomenon hit Yemen. One of its results was the resignation of President Ali Saleh who had been in power for 33 years. The Yemeni political parties agreed on a new president, President Hadi, to take control for a transitional period of two years. Economic development, democracy, and social justice were among the things that he promised to achieve. Yet two years have passed and none of the above was achieved, especially not the democratic transition of power since elections did not take place. There was an increase in prices of different services and goods. Such bad governance resulted in people protesting against the president. Most of these protests were led by a Shi’a group called ‘Al Houthi’.

The demands of the September 2014 protests were to decrease prices and to call for elections. But the government did not respond to the people’s demands. The Al Houthi group started moving militarily and controlling cities on the far north of Yemen without any resistance from the Yemeni army. In the beginning of 2015, the Al Houthi group took control over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. The Houthis rejected the draft of a new constitution proposed by the government. They seized the national television news channel and clashed with the Yemeni troops in the capital. President Hadi escaped to Aden, a city in south Yemen, and started fighting Al Houthis. The Houthis started a military campaign in the south, defeated the president’s forces and almost controlled all of Yemen. President Hadi then flew to Saudi Arabia, and asked Saudi Arabia and other countries to intervene in Yemen and destroy this group.

The coalition forces started air striking Al Houthi locations and the Yemeni army military bases. Nevertheless, what the coalition forces do not understand is that Al Houthi military forces control almost the whole country by now. Many Yemeni civilians were killed because of the air strikes and Yemeni infrastructure has been destroyed by the coalition forces.

I personally believe that any foreign intervention in the country would lead to more problems. Libya and Syria are two clear examples of the negative consequences of foreign intervention in other countries. The majority of Yemeni people, including some members of Al Houthi opposition, are standing against this foreign intervention. Air strikes have caused a shortage of food in the country, due to struck-down food factories, and a cutout of important services such as electricity. Furthermore, a refugee camp was attacked in northern Yemen which led to many civilian casualties. After all of this, the questions which should be asked are: Have Arab countries, that have taken the responsibility to attack Al Houthis by air strikes, learned from the Syrian and Libyan experience? Do these countries have other intentions when it comes to air striking Yemen?