Yemen: a start to understanding the conflict

Millions of Yemens are about to starve to death. Isn’t it time to understand why?

The conflict is roughly:

Saudi Arabia backing Yemen President Hadi
Iran backing the Houthi rebels who overthrew Hadi

In a very poor country of 27 million people.
Where Al Qaeda and IS has taken advantage of instability and moved in.

Let’s start with:

Who are the Houthi rebels?

Houthi started as a tiny cult in the mountains of Yemen.
It was led by Houthi, a scholar, who wanted to revitalize a shi’a sect.
Houthi was killed, and the group named itself after him.

In 2001, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Houthi shifted to anti-America rhetoric, also becoming a popular and vocal critic of the then-President Saleh.

Over ten years, the Houthi gained experience as fighters by engaging in 6 wars.

By 2011, they joined the 180,000 protesters in Sanaa, the capital, in the largest pro-democracy, anti-government demonstration in Yemen’s history, which allowed them to forge relationships with other anti-government forces.

President Saleh stepped down and turned control over to Hadi, his VP.

Hadi is elected but he is the only candidate on the ballot in a very weak government.

In the five years that follow:

The Houthi seize Sanaa, the capital.

They drive Hadi into the southern city of Aden and then into exile outside of Yemen.
South Yemen greatly suffers from these attacks, as the Houthi blow up schools and mosques and other public and private buildings.

Al Qaeda and IS take advantage of the chaos and seize territory across Yemen. In 2015 there was four-fold increase in the number of Al Qaeda recruits. And, the Yemens view their attempt at democracy as a failure, and ally with Al Qaeda and IS.

Al Qaeda is popular in Yemen not because of recruits or ideology but because it listens to local concerns and helps.

An example: Al Qaeda reconnects a small Yemen village to electricity.
People in this very poor country want Al Qaeda because they want the safety and security Al Qaeda brings.

And, Al Qaeda and IS are against the Houthis; they are on the side of Saudi Arabia coalition.
So they fight alongside the anti-Houthi forces

Saudi’s bombing campaign begins.

They targeted civilians in refugee camps, schools, residential homes, restaurants, hospitals trying to restore the UN-recognized government of Hadi.

Thousands of civilians have been killed since March.

The Saudis blockaded Yemen ports to stop weapons from Iran from getting in.

This creates a humanitarian crisis in a country that imports 90% of good
fuel, food, medicine isn’t getting to the Yemeni people.


With basic necessities of life inaccessible to most Yemen civilians we wonder: Should the U.S. support Saudi Arabia and fight terrorism? Or should they prioritize helping the Yemenese people? Read the Debater article here.

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