Yemen has been under the spotlight in the Arab region and the rest of the world for four weeks. Everyone has been talking about it with the beginning of the operation “decisive storm”. However, we do not know much about the old and ongoing tragedy of the Yemeni people that has been burdening Yemen for more than half a century. This historically booming country has a deprived population suffering from unprecedented starvation and lack of development, among most countries in the world. The Yemenis are suffering from a silent humanitarian crisis that has been kept off the scenes.
Yemen’s stability is not the problem as the country has witnessed throughout its history numerous consternations that were limited in the space and time. It hasn’t been a problem even after the emergence of Al Qaeda, American drone warfare that has been ongoing for years now, and the brief wars between government-allied forces and the Houthis. Nevertheless, most of the country is lacking civilization. Poverty long preceded Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule. Yemen has witnessed decades without development. It is now languishing at the bottom of the world, and ranks among the countries that are the most affected by poverty and ignorance.
Half of the Yemeni population earns just two dollars per month. It is one of the countries that are suffering from the lack of education, medication and other services. This misery has been haunting Yemenis for nearly five decades; it is a bigger and more dangerous issue than the crisis we are witnessing today. It is important to mention that Yemeni’s chance is unlikely to change with the lingering of the old regime and its heirs.
All that we wish for is that the world deploys all possible efforts to save Yemen from its humanitarian plight through providing relief to all parts of the countryAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The current war might be the only way out of the long Yemeni tunnel, in case the concerned countries in the Gulf and the West, care to provide a project that will save the country and not only save the rule of law. The international community, governments and international funds, have previously held conferences to help the Yemeni people, before and after the “Spring Revolution,” but Saleh’s regime was unsettling all deployed efforts to help the country get out of the long tunnels of ignorance, corruption or mere political interests. Saleh has purposely left Yemen outside the cycle of civilization; his government only managed major cities and left the rest of the country to the rule of the tribes.
During the 60s, Yemen has witnessed transitions like all other Arab states, the transition from colonialism, as is the case of Southern Yemen in 1968, or transition from an obscure tribal power into the modern state, as is the case of Northern Yemen in 1964.
Similarly to what happened in other Arab countries, the wave of independence veered towards military dictatorship or extremist ideology. Northern Yemen has witnessed conflicts over power between the different victorious authorities; five presidents have come to power in 15 years, and then, at the end, an unexperienced, uncultured, low-ranked military individual became president and dominated the country for more than 30 years.
As for Southern Yemen, it has fallen into the clutches of the Communists and extremist Marxists, loyal to the Soviet Union; they took control after the departure of the last British soldier in 1968. Yemenis were divided between two Yemens: South and North. They were ruled by two futile regimes that failed to build a modern state, and after the so-called unity, the country turned into a poor state.
No sign of hope arose before 2011, before the so-called wind of Arab Spring raged in Sanaa. The Yemenis marked the world as they were the most civilized rebels among all other Arabs. Things were peaceful for a year and a half, until the rebels forced Saleh to resign. Saleh only resigned to gain time and stay in power, but he was then injured in a blast and had to forcibly get out due to internal and external pressure.
Views shared of Yemen are generally political and not economic. This is normal because the problem in Yemen lies in the governance and resources. Poor governance is the cause behind the poverty, ignorance and frustration of the Yemeni people.
Saleh is a big problem because he was even successful in corrupting the political transition, which was engineered by the United Nations with a close follow-up by major countries, in addition to the full care of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The political transition has been promising for Yemen. Saleh convinced the military and security forces, over which he presided, and spread the idea of rebellion. He established an alliance with his former enemies the Houthis and helped them control the city of Omran and then the capital Sanaa. He brought the country to a disastrous civil and regional war.
All that we wish for is that the world deploys all possible efforts to save Yemen from its humanitarian plight through providing relief to all parts of the country, and to develop a large economic rescue project that goes beyond the war and its temporary objectives. Yemen is rich in oil, gas and agriculture and needs to have its chance for salvation.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 24, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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