ADEN, Yemen — Yemen is on the brink of civil war as conflicts between the Houthis and followers of the overthrown President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, escalate. Death tolls and property damage have increased over the past few weeks as political tensions and struggle for power between opposing forces threaten the region.
The rebels have advanced into Aden, setting fire to homes and buildings around the area. Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have sought to take advantage of the instability in the region and have launched attacks in Yemen. Al-Qaeda suicide bombers targeted mosques in Yemen killing approximately 126 people, according to the World Bank.
Death Tolls Rise
As the Houthis and rebel forces battle for control, death tolls continue to increase. Escalating combat has killed hundreds of people and injured thousands in two weeks. In Aden, an estimated 50 people died as of March 30. According to CNN, approximately 600 people have been killed as a result, while thousands have abandoned the country. The total toll, however, does not include deaths from air strikes or victims of rebel casualties.
Foreign Aid and Alliance
As a result of increased deaths and injuries over the last few weeks, the Red Cross has pleaded for a temporary ceasefire in order to provide aid. The head of operations in the Middle East said that if aid is not given soon, many of the wounded could die. Saudi Arabia responded to the Red Cross and agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire while medical supplies and workers are flown in to provide care.
In addition, President Hadi has requested aid from a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which is comprised of five Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco and Sudan. In response to Mr. Hadi’s request, the coalition intervened and fired air strikes against the Houthis.
A significant reason members of the coalition are in Alliance with President Hadi is due to the waterway that flows in Yemen linking the Red Sea with Aden. The Bab el-Mandab waterway is important primarily because it serves as a passage way for oil shipments. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are afraid rebel forces who succeed in the takeover will threaten this waterway.
Currently, Iran is pushing for peace talks to resolve the escalating conflict in Yemen and has met with Pakistan’s prime minster in order to create a compromise and restore government order.
“We need to work together in order to put an end to the crisis in Yemen,” said Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. “We need to find a political solution in Yemen, a comprehensive political solution leading an inclusive government through Yemeni dialogue.”
The main conflict is drawn from prior events when the Shia rebels overthrew President Hadi. Initially, the rebels had forced the Yemen president to leave the country; however, followers of the president did not approve and still consider him Yemen’s legitimate leader. Division in religion is also a factor that is driving the region’s conflicts. The Houthis, who remain allies to Zaidi, are rebels who practice Shia, a branch of Islam, while the overthrown President Hadi and his followers are Sunni, another branch of Islam. The two branches of Islam divide the region thus creating opposing forces attempting to gain control of Yemen.
The Houthis have revealed that the rebellion was fueled by their dissatisfaction of a corrupt government led by President Hadi. The Shia rebel’s aim is to discontinue the current parliament and employ an assembly and presidential council to lead Yemen.
History of Conflict
Conflict in Yemen has been largely due to inequality of power and trouble accessing resources necessary for survival. Recent battles are not the only conflicts Yemen has seen, but a standing record reveals that there has been continual unrest in the south and power struggle between the military and citizens. Additionally, repeated attacks by Al-Qaeda forces have also contributed to political unrest in the region.
Yemen has been in a political transition for nearly a decade. The government of Yemen has had previous conflicts with the Houthis over power and control. Following a brief war, the Houthis signed a peace treaty that would ensure commitments to institute a new government order to ease tensions in Yemen. Although a partnership agreement was signed in September 2014, protests regarding government decisions continued to fuel conflict between the two forces. Soon after, the Houthis remained uneasy, maintaining a level of control at military checkpoints and government posts. In January, rebel forces placed the president under house arrest and eventually led him to flee the city. Subsequently, the Houthis announced a new government order; however, in a statement by President Hadi from Aden, he declared that all actions taken by the Houthis is considered rebellious and unconstitutional. Mr. Hadi reinstated himself as president following the announcement. The political tensions present between Houthis and followers of President Hadi escalated matters further.
Instability in Yemen
The region’s instability stems from corrupt political actions as a result of weak government and infrastructure. Additionally, high unemployment rates along with food insecurity and minimal social services add to Yemen’s vulnerability.
Yemen stands in the Arab world as one of the poorest countries with 54.5 percent of the population living in poverty and an estimated 45 percent of people being food insecure, according to the World Bank. As political tensions in Yemen escalate, so does poverty rates. The vulnerable political and security position in Yemen is heavily influencing the country’s economy as a whole.
Escalating conflicts is driving Yemen deeper into poverty and causing instability within the region. Although foreign aid is being provided, the political unrest is ultimately up to Yemenis to resolve.
– Nada Sewidan