Many people of Gujarat origin have been stranded in Yemen
What are root causes of Yemen conflict?
Yemen has not been a conflict zone from the beginning. It was peaceful place for centuries and its 2 main sects Zaidiyyah and Shafi’I conexisted peacefully.
But in 1962 in Yemen Zaidi rule collapsed. Since then the Zaidi Shia was marginalized and the ruling officials let Wahhabi and Salafi sect from Saudi Arabia inhabit the Shia provinces. This movement led to formation of Salafism and the emergence of sectarian violence.
Due to the penetration of Salafism, some tribes attacked Shia tribes and the crisis of sectarian violence intensified. Moreover, after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Al-Qaeda network transferred to Yemen, Which escalated the tensions between tribes.
Continued difference of each other’s identity led to friction between main southern and northern tribes of the country. The inhabitants of southern Yemen call themselves southerner or Shafi’i instead of Yemeni. Tribes of Yemen protect their tribal identity, and sectarian groups protect their religious identity. National identity is not the priority and in the political scene the emphasis on chosen identity matters the most.
When tribal leaders move into the political structure of the country, they lay claim to power on behalf of their tribe. Hence every tribe competes for more of a share of the power structure. Yemen constantly suffers from fragile and volatile conditions created by this competition for tribal power.
Furthermore, since 1990, when North Yemen and South Yemen united, the Arab Spring in 2010 caused a new experience of unrest and anarchy. To this day Yemen has been involved in violence and instability. The tribal socio-structure of Yemen impedes disarmament of armed groups and there is no effort of the government to control weapons.
Other major causes of conflict
The governments’ unfair approach toward tribes is a major source of friction in Yemen. No government can bring justice and equality for all tribes due to aforementioned affiliation of governments to a specific tribe. Because of discriminations, Yemen never has experienced real democracy.
Illiteracy and poverty are undeniable factors which overshadowed many of the social complexities for the Yemeni people living in a tribal socio-structure.
The ruling group consistently demonstrates favoritism toward different tribes in political, social and economic issues. For example, part of Yemeni people who live in oil-rich regions claim that the oil revenue is not distributed among them and it is transferred to the other regions.
Who are the Houthis?
The Houthis are members of a rebel group, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), who adhere to a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. Zaidis make up one-third of the population and ruled North Yemen under a system known as the imamate for almost 1,000 years until 1962.
The Houthis take their name from Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi. He led the group’s first uprising in 2004 in an effort to win greater autonomy for their heartland of Saada province, and also to protect Zaidi religious and cultural traditions from perceived encroachment by Sunni Islamists.
After Houthi was killed by the Yemeni military in late 2004, his family took charge and led another five rebellions before a ceasefire was signed with the government in 2010.
Now who is fighting whom
The main fight is between forces loyal to the beleaguered President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and those allied to Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis, who forced Mr Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in February.
Yemen’s security forces have split loyalties, with some units backing Mr Hadi, and others the Houthis and Mr Hadi’s predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has remained politically influential. Mr Hadi is also supported in the predominantly Sunni south of the country by militia known as Popular Resistance Committees and local tribesmen.
Both President Hadi and the Houthis are opposed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has staged numerous deadly attacks from its strongholds in the south and south-east.
The picture is further complicated by the emergence in late 2014 of a Yemen affiliate of the jihadist group Islamic State, which seeks to eclipse AQAP and claims it carried out a series of suicide bombings in Sanaa in March 2015.
Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states has, since March, launched an all-out air campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi armed groups who seized the capital Sana’a a year ago.
Saudi Arabia’s stated objective is to roll back the Shia Houthis and reinstate Yemen’s president, Abdu Mansour Hadi, who fled last year as the insurgency gained ground. . All the Gulf states except Oman have joined the Sunni military coalition in recent months,
Effects on India
Yemen is home to some 80,000 to 1,00,000 people of Indian origin, descendents of communities from Gujarat and Kerala who settled there in the 19th century when the region was ruled by the British. These people are now Yemeni citizens.
One of India’s most important shipping routes passes through the Gulf of Aden, accounting for imports of $50 billion and exports of $60 billion every year, according to the shipping ministry.
The route is so important that the Indian Navy has maintained a presence in the Gulf of Aden since 2008 to protect Indian vessels and the Indian crew of ships flying the flags of other countries.
The situation in Yemen has the potential of sending one more Arab country hurtling into chaos. This could mean one less country supporting us at the UN and less trade and interaction with the region.
Indian nationals, including Hindus, Muslims and Parsis, have lived in Aden since the mid-1880s. Many traders became Yemeni citizens and Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance Group, began his business career in Aden.