Yemen History

Yemen History


In the southern Yemen (Hadramaut) numerous prehistoric settlements have been discovered from the late Paleolithic to the Neolithic, lingering up to the 2nd millennium BC, a time when circular or linear structures and dolmens appear. Double-sided lithic industries of the 4th-3rd millennium BC come from the ar-Rub al-Khali desert and the Sadah region, where there are also testimonies of rock art, dated to about 6250 years ago. Various settlements and rock art are attested in the Neolithic and Bronze Age (Khawlān region). The beginning of the South Arabian civilization can be dated around 1000 BC

From the reign of Sheba to the Ottoman rule

Information on the existence of the kingdom of Saba, with its capital Mā′rib and urban centers at Ṣirwāḥ, el-Mesagid and el-Huqqa, can be found in Assyrian inscriptions (8th century BC); it reached its apogee in the 5th-4th century. At the same time, other state entities also developed in the Yemen The urban centers, in which there are remains of monumental buildings, temples and irrigation works and from which numerous sculptures and epigraphic materials come, arise in relation to trade routes, whose control seems to be linked to the Sabean expansion in Eritrea and Tigré. between the 5th and the 3rd century. BC Around 115 BC the capital was moved from Mā′rib to Ẓafār, near present-day Yarim, while the Ḥimyarite tribe acquired preponderant weight in the kingdom; the other South Arabian kingdoms of Ma‛īn, Qatabān and Hadramaut (2nd century AD) were then absorbed after the defeat of Elio Gallus in 25-24 BC. The unified Yemeni state was attacked and temporarily occupied in the 4th century. from the reign of Aksum, who in 525 definitively subjugated the Himyarite kingdom.

In 575 the Persian domination was replaced by the Ethiopian dominion, soon overwhelmed by the Muslim expansion. The advent of Islam marked the end of the astral cults akin to Mesopotamian and Phoenician ones, the complete dominance of classical Northern Arabic over the local dialects of the Southern Semitic group and the nominal incorporation of Y into the Caliphate. In reality, various rival dynasties such as the Ziyādidis, the Nagiāidis and the Mahdidis of the Tihāma, the minor Ismaili dynasties that reigned in Aden until the 12th century, and the Zaidis, did not take long to become semi-independent. The latter managed, albeit with prolonged interruptions, to maintain power from the 9th century. until recently, progressively affirming itself over other local families. In the 16th century. the Yemen was partially occupied by the Turks, rejected by the Zaidites in 1630;

The division into two states

With the capture of Aden (1839) British penetration began in the South: between 1882 and 1914 London established its protectorate on 23 small states located along the Hadramaut coast. In the North, the Imām Yaḥya ibn Muḥammad, after the Ottoman withdrawal and the affirmation of independence (1918), tried to reconquer Aden, but in 1934 he had to recognize the border with the protectorate. Having ascended the throne in 1948, Imam Aḥmed initiated a cautious policy of economic development with Western help. Upon his death (1962) a group of officers led by Colonel ‛Abdallāh Sallāl proclaimed the Arab Republic of Yemen, while the heir to the throne, Muḥammad el-Badr, began a bloody guerilla warfare; the Saudi intervention in support of the monarchists was matched by the Egyptian intervention alongside the republicans. The civil war ended with the affirmation of the republican regime (1970).

Meanwhile in 1967 the end of the British protectorate on the southern Yemen had allowed the birth of the People’s Republic of South Yemen Power was assumed by the National Liberation Front (FLN, established in 1963), of socialist inspiration, but political life was long conditioned by the bitter conflicts within it. Initiated a policy of nationalization and collaboration with the socialist countries, in 1970 the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen was proclaimed. Prime Minister ‛Alī al-Nāṣir Muḥammad also assumed the post of interim head of state and the FLN was transformed into the Yemeni Socialist Party (PSY).

In the North, the policy of pacification promoted by ‛Abd er-Raḥmān el-Iryānī clashed with the difficult economic reality of the country and with the centrifugal forces expressed above all by the pro-Saudi tribal confederations. In 1974 a coup d’état installed a military junta led by Ibrāhīm el-Ḥamdī. Assassinated in October 1977, he was replaced by Colonel Aḥmed Ḥusain el-Ghashmī, who had himself elected president of the Republic but was himself assassinated the following year; the presidency was then assumed by Colonel ‛Alī‛ Abdallāh Ṣāliḥ. In the meantime, a strong left opposition emerged, organized in the National Democratic Front, a guerrilla movement supported by the Yemen of the South until 1982.

According to localcollegeexplorer, Inter-Yemeni relations, characterized for a long time by the alternation of phases of serious tension (which resulted in open conflict in 1972 and 1979) and moments of relaxation, in the early 1980s experienced an improvement. In the South, the general secretary of the PSY, ‛Abd al-Fattāḥ Ismā‛īl, who also became head of state, was dismissed in 1980 and in his place went al-Nāsir Muḥammad, who sought to improve relations with the Arab states of the region. In 1985 the presidency of the council passed to H. Abu Bakr al-‛attās, who after disputes within the leadership group and very serious clashes also assumed the presidency of the Republic, while the post of general secretary of the PSY was attributed to ‛A. Salām al-Biḍ. In addition to strengthening relations with moderate Arab countries, the new leadership group introduced political and economic liberalization measures towards the end of the decade.


The détente process between the two countries suffered a new setback following the discovery of oil fields (1983-84) in the border areas, but the consideration of the benefits of joint exploitation was a push towards unification and in May 1990 the Republic of Yemen was proclaimed. The new Constitution established a presidential council, including ‛Abdallāh Ṣāliḥ as president and‛ A. Salām al-Biḍ.

Projects for economic development and integration were thwarted by the serious political and economic consequences of the crisis that followed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990). The strong social tensions that ensued added to the wave of severe political violence, especially against PSY leaders, after unification. In the political elections of 1993, the General People’s Congress (CGP, party of President Ṣāliḥ) was established, followed by the Union for Reform (al-Iṣlāḥ), an Islamic-inspired formation, and the PSYemen A coalition government was formed between the three parties, but the strengthening of the agreement between the CGP and al-Iṣlāḥ accentuated the differences with the socialists and al-Biḍ took refuge in Aden. The growing tension between the two ruling groups and the two armies, which remained separate, resulted in open conflict in 1994.

Ṣāliḥ was re-elected President of the Republic in 1994, 1999 and 2006. The authoritarianism and corruption his government is accused of, however, made the Yemen politically and socially unstable. Local fundamentalist groups have increased their influence in the country, giving rise not only to a series of subversive and terrorist acts since 2000, but also to institutional breakthroughs: since 1994 Islamic law has become a source of Yemeni law. The violent conflicts between the government and Zaydi Shiite rebel groups that broke out in 2004 in the North and the secessionist pressures that since 2007 have given rise to waves of protests and strikes in the southern Yemen have further weakened the Ṣāliḥ government, questioning its same legitimacy. On Jan. 2011, on wave of popular uprisings that affected various North African countries, thousands of protesters gathered in Sana and other cities peacefully inviting Ṣāliḥ to step down as president. In May, during the clashes that erupted following the harsh repression exercised by the security forces and the failure of the attempted agreement mediated by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the presidential palace was subjected to a violent attack during which Ṣāliḥ remained severely injured.Despite lacking the support of the United States and weakened by defections by part of the army and its political entourage, Ṣāliḥ refused to leave the political scene and only on November 23, after nine months of conflict, did he sign a proposed transition agreement by the Gulf Cooperation Council on the basis of which it has pledged to hand over its powers to Vice President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.In January 2012, in application of a part of this agreement, Parliament approved the law that guarantees Ṣāliḥ immunity; in Yemen a state of fragility remains due to the impossibility of the newly formed government of national unity to control entire regions, still occupied by Islamic militias linked to al Qaeda or by Sunni and Shiite secessionists. On February 21, 2012, the new President of the Republic was elected in the person of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the sole candidate in the consultations, whose duties were also to supervise the drafting of the new Constitution, the drafting of which text was assigned to a National Dialogue Conference, which however failed to find an agreement. On January 20, 2015, a revolt by the Ḥūthī zaydites allied with Ṣāliḥ forced the legitimate president to resign; Parliament was dissolved and rebel militias took control of the government by capturing Sana; He took refuge in Aden in February 2015, hence Hadi – however recognized in his office by the international community – proclaimed this city the capital, although the act was purely symbolic, as an actual movement of the capital would require a reform of the Constitution. The clash between the Ḥūthī faction and the international military coalition in support of Hadi has produced a very serious humanitarian crisis in the country to put an end to which Saudi Arabia has attempted mediation; in December 2017, following the opening of Ṣāliḥ to the Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen History