yemen civil war 2015 october map

The Yemeni Civil war :Who is fighting whom and why?

yemen civil war 2015 october map
Green:Controlled by Revolutionary Committee Orange:Controlled by Hadi-led government and the Southern Movement Grey:Controlled by Ansar al-Sharia/AQAP forces Source: Wikimedia commons

Overshadowed by its relative smallness and obscured by its relative complexity, the six-month-old civil war in Yemen is the middle child of Middle East conflict.


  • 1990 :North and South Yemen unite to become the Republic of Yemen with Ali Abdullah Saleh as President. Saleh had served as President of North Yemen for 12 years until then. Tensions between North and South continue with sporadic fighting.
  • 1993 : Vice-President Ali Salem al-Beidh quits Saleh’s government and returns to Aden in southern Yemen, demanding an end to economic marginalisation of the south and political violence. Civil war erupts in May 1994, ends in a victory for Saleh within three months.
  • 2004 :Assassination of Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi, founder of the Huthi movement, sparks the first of six wars between President Saleh’s government and Huthi rebels in the group’s northern stronghold of Sa’ada.
  • 2009 :During the sixth conflict fighting spills into Saudi Arabia, which launches air strikes against the Huthi armed group of Sa’ada.
  • 2011 :Hundreds killed in crackdown on mass protests calling for fall of President Saleh, an end to corruption and repression and accountability for human rights violations. President Saleh forced to resign and sign power-transfer deal.
  • 2012 :Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi elected as president initiating a two-year transitional period. However, government forces continue to commit human rights violations, including unlawful killings and enforced disappearances, against supporters of secession in south and a conflict with the Huthi armed group in north is renewed.
  • 2014 :Huthis call for mass protests after government slashed fuel subsidies. The group advances south and seized Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. By February 2015 the group dissolves parliament and announces plans for a transitional government.
  • 2015 :Clashes between pro and anti Huthis escalate. After President Hadi appeals to Gulf and Arab states to intervene militarily, Saudi Arabian-led military coalition launches air strikes against Huthi armed group positions in Sana’a and Sa’da. President Hadi flees to Saudi Arabia. Over the next six months the conflict spreads across Yemen.                                                            (source:Amnesty International)


Why is Yemen so unstable?

In recent years Yemen has seen violent conflicts largely caused by underlying problems of unequal access to power and resources.


There have been six rounds of fighting between the state and the Houthis in the north; separatist unrest in the south; frequent attacks by AQAP; and power struggles between tribal and military factions.

For much of the 20th Century, Yemen existed as two separate countries - the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in the north and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in the south. In 1990, the countries chose to unify and create the Republic of Yemen.
However, southerners soon began complaining of political and economic marginalisation by the government in Sanaa, and fought a civil war in 1994 in a failed attempt to reverse the unification.


Instability and large-scale displacement, as well as weak governance, corruption, resource depletion and poor infrastructure, have hindered development in the poorest country in the Middle East.

Unemployment, high food prices and limited social services mean more than 10 million Yemenis are believed to be food insecure.

The Situation Today

On 25 March 2015, an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against the Huthi armed group in Yemen sparking a full-blown armed conflict.

Over the following six months, the conflict has spread and fighting has engulfed the entire country with 20 of Yemen’s 22 governorates affected. Horrific human rights abuses, as well as war crimes, are being committed throughout the country causing unbearable suffering for civilians.

As well as relentless bombardment by coalition forces from the air, there is a battle being fought on the ground between rival factions. On one side are the Huthis, an armed group whose members belong to a branch of Shi’a Islam known as Zayidism. The Huthis are allied with supporters of Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. On the other side are anti-Huthi forces that are allied with the Saudi Arabian-led coalition. Civilians are trapped in the middle – hundreds of them have been killed and injured and a humanitarian crisis has spiralled.

For six months much of the world has ignored this raging conflict and heard little about its devastating consequences.

Human rights abuses by all sides

As has been stated by Amnesty International there is evidence revealing that all the parties to this conflict have committed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Under international humanitarian law – the set of rules under international law that apply during any conflict – attacks should only be directed towards military targets. All those fighting must also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians in their attacks. Directly attacking civilians or civilian property or infrastructure such as hospitals, or residential homes is prohibited.

  • The Saudi Arabian-led coalition has launched air strikes against civilian objects, such as homes, schools, markets and mosques, even though no fighters or military targets were located nearby. These attacks may amount to war crimes.


  • In Sa’da in the north of the country Amnesty International has also found evidence that the coalition forces used cluster munitions, lethal explosive weapons banned under international law. When launched cluster bombs release dozens of small “bomblets”, which often lie unexploded and can cause horrific injuries long after the initial attack



In Ta’iz and Aden fighters from both sides – whether pro or anti-Huthi – have carried out indiscriminate attacks using imprecise weapons, such as artillery and mortar fire or Grad rockets, in heavily populated civilian areas. Both sides have also failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians putting the lives of people not involved in the fighting in danger.

They have also operated in the midst of residential neighbourhoods, launching attacks from or near homes, schools and hospitals. All these attacks are serious violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.

Saudi war in Yemen impossible to win

AL MONITOR reports that the Saudi military intervention may have reached a dead end six months after it started, despite announced victories in Aden and other southern Yemeni territories.

  • The international military coalition the Saudis hoped for turned out to be only a mini-consortium of countries willing to participate.

The Saudi war turned into a Saudi-Emirati alliance with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries reluctantly supporting it. Oman was the only GCC country refusing to take part in the bombing. Qatar and Kuwait expressed support with only the former contributing ground troops. In addition to the UAE’s very active role, Bahrain wholeheartedly backed Saudi leadership as the war narrative against Iran fits very well with the Bahraini regime’s objective of dubbing its own uprising as an Iranian conspiracy.

The brief return of exiled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to Aden in September on a Saudi airplane was meant to mark a symbolic Saudi momentary victory rather than an important turn signaling an undisputed positive outcome. The Saudi war on Yemen is not an inevitable war of self-defense forced on the leadership by Houthi expansion inside Saudi Arabia and undermining Saudi national security. Instead, it was a pre-emptive strike to inaugurate an aggressive Saudi regional foreign policy.


Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) continue to expand in Yemen, exploiting the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s preoccupation with securing northern Yemen.

AQAP and ISIS increased their political and military activities to boost recruitment during the Eid al Adha holiday.
AQAP militants conducted several political and military activities throughout Yemen from September 17 to September 24, destroying Sufi shrines in Hadramawt, distributing religious pamphlets in Hadramawt and Aden, and attacking al Houthi locations in Ibb.
An AQAP video commemorated the group’s recent southern battles against the al Houthis and a statement praised Muslims celebrating the holiday.
AQAP senior official Khalid Batarfi expressed support for Eid al Adha participants and called for more attacks against the Zionist-Crusaders in a September 28 video. Separately, ISIS groups in Yemen increased their reported activity.
ISIS Wilayat al Bayda claimed an improvised explosive device attack against a pro-al Houthi Yemeni military patrol on September 22 and was reportedly preparing to train fighters after the holiday.
A September 24 suicide bombing attack at a Sana’a mosque claimed by ISIS Wilayat Sana’a was an attempt to inflame Sunni-Shi’a tensions during the religious holiday.

News Update:

According to NYTimes,International human rights organizations on Friday criticized the United Nations Human Rights Council for bowing to pressure from Saudi Arabia and passing a resolution on Yemen that shuns an international investigation into reported abuses by Saudi-led forces and Houthi rebels.

The Netherlands, backed by a group of other Western countries, had proposed a United Nations inquiry, but the council on Friday adopted by consensus a resolution largely drafted by Saudi Arabia, one of the main belligerents in the conflict. The resolution asked the United Nations human rights office only to provide technical assistance to a Yemeni inquiry set up by the exiled government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

While the U.S. supported the initial Dutch resolution, they made no public effort to block the Saudi government from killing the independent investigation. Keith Harper, the U.S. representative to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, told The Associated Press that while he supported the Dutch initiative, he preferred a consensus outcome, meaning one that had the backing of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was named head of the Human Rights Council last month, prompting observers to question the propriety of giving the country such a position while its government commits flagrant human rights abuses, both in its military intervention in Yemen and by beheading activists at home. When asked if the U.S. was troubled by the move, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, “We would welcome it. We’re close allies.”

Yemen severs diplomatic ties with Iran: state media

State news agency Saba, citing an unidentified person at the Yemeni presidency, said Yemen “has taken the decision to expel the Iranian ambassador to Yemen, withdraw the Yemeni envoy to Tehran and close down its diplomatic mission in Iran.”

The source told Saba that the move was a protest against Iran’s “continued interference in the internal affairs of Yemen and violation of its national sovereignty,” citing a recent detention of an Iranian ship loaded with weapons.

Saudi-led coalition forces, which have been battling the Houthis for the past six months to try to restore Hadi to power, said on Wednesday they had seized an Iranian fishing boat loaded with weapons intended for the Houthis.

Sources: Amnesty International, Reuters



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