Yemenis Must Face the Truth About Our War of Identities

Commentary by Abdulghani Al-Iryani The war in Yemen, while still described as a political conflict between political factions, from the start had an underlying clash between two key identities: northern Zaidi tribes of the high plateau, historically referred to as Upper Yemen, who have dominated most of Yemen for centuries; and the Shafi’i farming communities from what was described as Lower Yemen, which served as the tax base of Zaidi rule. The time for well-meaning denials of the nature of the Yemen war as a conflict of identities has passed and we Yemenis have to face the facts to… Continue reading…

Q&A with Anna Karin Eneström, Swedish Ambassador to the UN

Among the international community, Sweden has played an outsized role related to humanitarian relief, the peace process and gender issues in Yemen. Sweden has previously co-hosted the annual High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen. On the diplomatic front, Sweden hosted the Yemeni parties that negotiated the 2018 Stockholm Agreement, and regularly raised humanitarian and gender related concerns in Yemen during its 2017-18 tenure on the United Nations Security Council. Since December 2019, Ambassador Anna Karin Eneström has been the Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations. On October 12, she spoke with the Sana’a Center’s Gregory… Continue reading…

Shabwa: Progress Despite Turmoil in a Governorate of Competing Identities

  Shabwa governorate, perched centrally at the foot of Yemen's mountainous highlands and stretching to the Gulf of Aden, is at a crossroads of Yemeni identity as well as geography. As part of the former Marxist South Yemen that unified with the northern Yemen Arab Republic in 1990 and then attempted to break away four years later, Shabwa shares the southern sense of marginalization and alienation that has bred popular support for secessionist elements in recent years. In the 16 years that followed the 1994 civil war, many of Shabwa’s tribal and political elites were co-opted by former President… Continue reading…

The Houthi Movement from a Local Perspective: A Resurgence of Political Zaidism

Commentary by Mohammed Abdulla Mohammed Editor’s note: The author is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He is writing under a pseudonym for security reasons. The Yemen War is often characterized in international media as a proxy war framed as part of the broader competition for regional hegemony between Iran and Saudi Arabia. An excessive focus on regional geopolitics creates a narrative that largely ignores the local drivers of the conflict and the historic context in Yemen that shaped them. This is critical in the case of Ansar Allah, otherwise known as the Houthis, a relatively young, militant, religious… Continue reading…

The Riyadh Agreement One Year On

Commentary by Hussam Radman One year ago, on November 5, 2019, the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) signed the Riyadh Agreement.  The agreement was intended to do two things at once. First, and most immediately, it was designed to halt the military confrontation between President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s forces and STC-aligned troops, which had reignited in August 2019, allowing the STC to take control of Aden as well as parts of Shabwa and Abyan. Second, the Riyadh Agreement was supposed to smooth over differences between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and… Continue reading…

Yemen’s Prisoner Exchange Must be Depoliticized

Commentary by Nadwa Al-Dawsari In mid-October, the Yemeni government and the Houthis swapped 1,056 prisoners as part of the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement. The prisoner exchange sparked hopes, mainly among foreign observers, that this could be a first step toward peace in Yemen. UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths called it a “very important milestone” while the UN Secretary General called upon all parties to engage with his envoy to agree on a “Joint Declaration encompassing a nationwide cease-fire, economic and humanitarian measures, and the resumption of a comprehensive, inclusive political process to end the war.”[1] While the prisoner exchange… Continue reading…

Marib: A Yemeni Government Stronghold Increasingly Vulnerable to Houthi Advances

By Ali Al-Sakani and Casey Coombs Marib, a centrally-located governorate connecting Al-Bayda, Shabwa, Hadramawt, Al-Jawf and Sana’a, has undergone a drastic transformation since the war started in 2015, emerging as a booming economic, social, political and military center. Natural resources including irrigation from the Marib dam and oil and gas reserves were instrumental in building a bustling metropolis in Marib city over a short period. But it was the autonomy afforded by decentralization under Governor Sultan al-Aradah that harnessed those resources for local development. Obtaining its share of the national gas and oil revenues, for example, has helped fund… Continue reading…

Q&A with Jonathan Allen, UK Chargé d’Affaires to the UN

Ambassador Jonathan Allen has served as chargé d’affaires to the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations in New York since March 2020. He was appointed UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in August 2017, and was Acting Director General, Defence and Intelligence from November 2016 to April 2017. In correspondences with the Sana’a Center, Ambassador Allen discussed UK and UN Security Council policies regarding the Yemen conflict, UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia, UNSC Resolution 2216, and the potential for environment disaster in the Red Sea related to the Safer oil terminal: Sana’a Center: Your Excellency, on… Continue reading…

With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends?

Commentary by Abdulghani Al-Iryani It has become a requirement to use the expression “Iran-supported” whenever referring to Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthis. The revivalist and repressive movement has taken over large parts of Yemen and embarked on a campaign to recast the Yemeni people and society in its own image: one that values martyrdom over life.  It is also necessary, however, to be skeptical about the extent of Iranian support to the group. I have always argued that this influence has been exaggerated by Houthi opponents. No matter what the extent of Iranian assistance, the main… Continue reading…

Wartime Challenges Facing Local Authorities in Shabwa

By Omar Saleh Yaslm BaHamid  Five years of war in Yemen have weakened local authorities’ ability to fulfil their roles in economic, social and cultural development and their financial and administrative capacity to provide basic services such as healthcare, education, electricity, water  and sanitation.  This paper gives an overview of wartime challenges faced by local authorities in Shabwa governorate, in southern Yemen. It provides an overview of administrative, financial and security challenges, such as corrupt hiring practices, tribal vendettas, weak rule of law and diminishing financial resources, and proposes recommendations to address these challenges.  Insights shared at forums for… Continue reading…