Monthly Archives: April 2014

Weekly News Update 25 April 2014

Of Transitology and Counter-Terror Targeting in Yemen
Muftah — 22 April 2014
Notably, however, professional transitologists avoid portraying the GCC Initiative as a blueprint for democratization, much less revolution, in the Peninsula. To the contrary, the Gulf monarchies and their Western allies, especially the United States, are applauded for their vigilance in bringing ‘stability’ to southwest Arabia. According to the technocratic think-tank blueprint for Yemen, an ill-defined stable transition trumps liberalization or popular democracy. ‘Stability’ is assumed to be the most, and perhaps the best, we can expect. Poor President Hadi is given another year or two to get Yemen on track. Gulf and Western donors will be generous, as long as benchmarks for progress are met. There are, however, two problems with this framing. First, it fundamentally contradicts the vision held by Yemen’s peaceful youth who demonstrated for almost all of 2011, and pays scant attention to the social justice aspirations of the most populous nation on the Peninsula. The GCC monarchies, most notably the dominant power Saudi Arabia, are inimically and intractably fearful of popular democracy. The Saudi kingdom outlaws and represses almost all forms of political expression. The second and more profound problem with these external narratives is their tendency to portray Yemen’s problems as purely endogenous self-inflicted wounds.

Hadhramaut: Rebellion, Federalism or Independence in Yemen?
Muftah — 23 April 2014
The private fortunes being made by Yemeni generals from oil companies may be a key reason why violence in Hadhramaut has ramped up tremendously since 2012. It is no coincidence that, in implementing government restructuring of the military, President Hadi has replaced a number of army and security leaders in Hadhramaut’s oil regions. It would be unrealistic to think that these military leaders, who were suddenly deprived of millions of dollars in monthly payments, would not react or resist in some way. Indeed, many Hadhrami commentators have asserted that many of the shadowy acts of violence and relentless series of assassinations of military leaders in Hadhramaut are in reality intra-military conflicts and leadership struggles among army leaders competing for lucrative oil company security contracts.

Yemen latest front line in Saudi-Qatari feud
Al-Monitor — 23 April 2014
Saudi Arabia informally supports tribal and religious forces in Yemen, either through its embassy in Sanaa or directly through Riyadh. But changes in the regional power balance have moved Islah from Saudi’s circle of allies and beneficiaries to the circle of enemies. The relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemeni tribes on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia on the other, is fateful. This relationship has deep and complex interests and Riyadh used to be able to tip the power balance in its favor. But Doha is meddling in Saudi Arabia’s hypersensitive files in Yemen, including the issue of Yemeni labor. Riyadh deported tens of thousands of Yemeni expatriates after adopting a new labor law that was passed in November 2013. More are being deported: as many as 12,500 expatriates through the airport in Sanaa alone in January-March. Qatar, however, has announced that it will open its doors to Yemeni labor and ordered that Yemenis residing on Qatari soil be treated like Qatari citizens in terms of access to education and health. Whatever the justifications, Riyadh’s actions have earned it widespread popular anger in Yemen because the actions happened at a time when Yemen is in a critical state. Continue reading


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Weekly News Update 18 April 2014

The Repercussions of the GCC Tension in Yemen
Sada — 8 April 2014
Although patron-client relations have always shaped Yemen’s political arena, the post-Arab Spring context of uncertainty has ignited a fierce competition between the country’s plethora of elite factions, not only over control of the state but also over external sources of legitimacy and support. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been able to buy the loyalty of local actors with ease, aided by Yemen’s endemic state weakness, scarcity of natural resources, and its regional, sectarian, and tribal fragmentation. Saudi Arabia has a long history of intervention and political investment in Yemen, which grants it more leverage over domestic actors, but also greater room for creating enemies. For instance, the Saudi support in granting blanket immunity from prosecution to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has angered Yemen’s revolutionary forces. Conversely, Qatar’s track record in Yemen has been less problematic. It acted, for example, as a mediator in the Houthi conflict and the southern movement issue and therefore has less baggage in Yemen.

Death From Above: How American Drone Strikes Are Devastating Yemen
Rolling Stone — 14 April 2014
In February, at the Khaled Ibn Al Walid School in Khawlan, a district some 45 kilometers from the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, Principal Jameel Al-Qawly anxiously hovers by the door, scolding any young boys dawdling in the sandy courtyard. Moments earlier, he noticed a sticker on the outside window of one of his classrooms: an image of a black flag with the words of the Muslim shahada, which translates to “There is no god but God and Mohamed is His messenger.” The flag and slogan constitute a symbol often associated with militant Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda. “I have to keep close watch,” Al-Qawly admits, “not to allow just anyone from outside talk to the children.”

Yemen’s ‘Muwaladeen’: The struggle for equal citizenship
Al-Jazeera — 5 April 2014
Despite the long history of Yemeni traders travelling abroad, immigrating, and forming cross-cultural families, the term “Muwalad” is still used today to describe children born to one parent of another nationality. The term itself is defined in an Arabic dictionary as “an Arab who is not purely Arab.” While the term applies to children of Yemeni-Russian, Yemeni-Vietnamese, or Yemeni-Egyptian couples, it is most often used for children of an African parent or a parent with African descent. According to an article by activist Hussein Musleh this term is used for humiliation, as a way to remind the person that he/she is not “pure” Yemeni. Such attitudes are exacerbated by today’s obsession with light or white skin in the Arab region, which is in sharp contrast to the famous poetry and music where artists and poets wrote and sang about tan women. Continue reading

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Weekly News Update 4 April 2014

After Dialogue, a Daunting Challenge for Yemen
Asharq Al-Awsat — 3 April 2014
Despite the grim economic outlook, pervasive insecurity and political instability, prominent figures of the NDC remain moderately optimistic about the future. Ahmed Abu Bakr Bazara, the chair of the dialogue’s Comprehensive Development Working Group, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there is little doubt the recommendations made in the group’s final report “will have a positive impact” on the efforts to address Yemen’s economic problems, although he adds, “Of course, this will take time.” Those recommendations, some of which will be part of the new Yemeni constitution, include an emphasis on freedom of economic activity, social justice, the plurality of ownership in the different sectors of the economy (including through the avoidance of monopolies), and public–private sector partnerships. The decisions of the NDC’s Good Governance Working Group are also expected to contribute to a more favorable business environment, as its vice-chair, Dr. Ahmed Al-Asbahi, explained to Asharq Al-Awsat. The group’s “305 decisions and recommendations” focus on “accountability, transparency and responsiveness, justice, efficiency and effectiveness, the supremacy of law, and the fight against corruption,” Asbahi said.

Yemen aid work ever more risky
IRIN — 2 April 2014
The 25 March kidnapping and release of two UN workers has underlined the risks aid workers in Yemen face. Humanitarians can find themselves caught up in outbreaks of violence by Zaydi Shia Houthi militants in the north, southern separatists, al-Qaeda-inspired groups, tribal groups, or common criminals, and the new UN sanctions regime could make matters worse for them.

Internet Cafes Close Down Amid Ongoing Energy Crisis
Yemen Times — 3 April 2014
The main power station and electricity infrastructure in Marib governorate sustained over 400 attacks and acts of sabotage from 2010 until June of last year, according to Al-Absi. He said that the power plant in Marib is a major electricity supplier to the rest of the country, with the capacity to generate 400 megawatts. Majed Al-Bashiri, a supervisor at the Hizaiz substation in Sana’a, which generates 40 megawatts, said there are several substations in Sana’a which together contribute 146 megawatts, but these stations only generate half of the capital city’s electricity requirements. The six major power plants across the country are only operating at 70 percent capacity at best due to technical difficulties and attacks, added Al-Bashiri. Continue reading

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