Until 1990, Yemen was a divided country between the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). The two states unified in 1990 after decades of conflict. However, as of today, Yemen faces three separate crises:

– the newly intensified Huthis rebellion in the north
– the increasingly violent secession movement in the south
– Al-Qaeda fighters from Saudi Arabia who found refuge in Yemen

1. Huthis rebellion

Shia Huthis rebels have been fighting the Yemeni army since 2004 in the north of the country over alleged governmental discrimination, aggression and marginalization. The conflict intensified in August 2009 when the Yemen’s army launched military operation against the Huthis. In addition, Saudi Arabia recently launched a military operation against the Huthis on its border with Yemen, as combats have increased in this region. Consequently, Huthis rebels have accused Saudi Arabia of supporting the central government campaign against them, an accusation that Riyadh denied.

Besides, the Yemeni government accuses Iran of supplying the Huthis insurgents to create a Shia arc around the Middle East; an accusation that Tehran and Huthis leader denied.

As a result of the on going fighting in the north of Yemen since 2004, aids groups think that at least 150,000 people have fled their homes and many have been wounded or killed during combats.

2. Secession movement in the south

Separatist movements in the south have gained momentum and have recently grown more violent. Since last April, south Yemen has been engulfed in violence. Separatist groups want to secede from the north on the ground of political marginalization by the central government and economic disparities between north and south.

3. Al Qaeda

Early last year, Nasser al Wuhayshi, Osama bin Laden’s former secretary, announced the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda, raising the alarm of counterterrorist agencies in the United States and elsewhere, which fear that Yemen may become a terrorist safe heaven. In July 2009, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander visited Yemen to push the government to implement aggressive actions against Al Qaeda. However, it appears that Al Qaeda remains of a third concerns for the Yemeni government given the threat posed by the Huthis rebellion and secession movements in the south.

Written by Linda Bouzembrak