Article: Yemen

الجمهورية اليمنية
Al-Ǧumhūriyyah al-Yamaniyyah

Republic of Yemen
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Flag Coat of arms
Motto: none
Anthem: United Republic
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Capital Sana'a
15°21′N 12°24′E
Largest city Sana'a
Official language(s) Arabic.

Official_religion = Islam, 56% Zaidi Shia, 40% Sunni, 4% other

Government Parliamentary republic
 - President Ali Abdullah Saleh
 - Prime Minister Abdul Qadir Bajamal
Unification May 22, 1990 
Area  
 - Total 527,970 km² (49th)
  203,850 sq mi 
 - Water (%) negligible
Population  
 - July 2005 est. 20,975,000 (51st)
 - Density 39/km² (160th)
101/sq mi 
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $17.2 Billion (110th)
 - Per capita $751 (175th)
HDI (2003) 0.489 (151st) â€“ low
Currency Yemeni rial (YER)
Time zone (UTC+3)
 - Summer (DST) (UTC+4)
Internet TLD .ye
Calling code +967

Yemen, officially the Republic of Yemen (Arabic: الجمهورية اليمنية), composed of former North and South Yemen, is a country on the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia and is a part of the Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden on the south and the Red Sea on the west. It borders Oman to the northeast and Saudi Arabia elsewhere. Its territory includes the remote island of Socotra, about 350 kilometres (217 mi) to the south off the coast of East Africa.

History

Main article: History of Yemen
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The town of Hajarin, which features some of the oldest "skyscrapers" in the world - six story buildings made of mud bricks and mortar.

Yemen was one of the oldest centres of civilization in the Near East. Between the 9th century BC and the 6th century AD, it was part of the Minaean, Sabaean, Himyarite, Qatabanian, Hadhramawtian, and Awsanian kingdoms, which controlled the lucrative spice trade. It was known to the Romans as "Arabia Felix" ("Happy Arabia") because of the riches its trade generated; Augustus Caesar attempted to annex it, but the expedition failed; Persian kings were more successful and Yemen became a Sassanid Persian province in 597/8 under a Persian satrap. In the 6th and early 7th centuries, Yemen was successively incorporated into the Ethiopian and Persian Sassanid empires. In the 7th century, Islamic caliphs began to exert control over the area. After this caliphate broke up, the former north Yemen came under control of Imams of various dynasties usually of the Zaidi sect, who established a theocratic political structure that survived until modern times. (Imam is a religious term. The Shiites apply it to the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law Ali, his sons Hassan and Hussein, and subsequent lineal descendants, whom they consider to have been divinely ordained unclassified successors of the prophet.)

Egyptian Sunni Caliphs occupied much of north Yemen throughout the 11th century. By the 16th century and again in the 19th century, north Yemen was part of the Ottoman Empire, and in some periods its Imams exerted control over south Yemen.

North Yemen became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and became a republic in 1962. The British, who had set up a protective area around the southern port of Aden in the 19th century, withdrew in 1967 from what became South Yemen. In 1970, the southern government adopted a Communist governmental system. The two countries were formally united as the Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990.

Politics

More information on politics and government of Yemen can be found at the Politics and government of Yemen series.

Yemen is a republic with a bicameral legislature. Under the constitution, an elected president, an elected 301-seat House of Representatives, and an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power. The president is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. The constitution provides that the president be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by Parliament; the prime minister is appointed by the president. The presidential term of office is 7 years, and the parliamentary term of elected office is 6 years. Suffrage is universal over 18.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh was elected in 1999; the next presidential elections are scheduled for 2006 in which President Saleh does not intend to run, although a survey indicates that 86% of the population still wants him to.[citation needed] In April 2003 parliamentary elections, the General People's Congress (GPC) maintained an absolute majority. International observers judged elections to be generally free and fair, and there was a marked decrease from previous years in election-related violence; however, there were some problems with underage voting, confiscation of ballot boxes, voter intimidation, and election-related violence.

The constitution calls for an independent judiciary. The former northern and southern legal codes have been unified. The legal system includes separate commercial courts and a Supreme Court based in Sanaá. Since the country is an Islamic state, the Islamic holy book, the Koran, is the basis for all laws, and no law may contradict the Koran. Indeed many court cases are debated by the religious basis of the laws i.e. by interpretations of the Koran. For this reason, many Judges are religious scholars as well as legal authorities. Unlike Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states, the consumption of alcohol by foreigners is tolerated, and the mild narcotic Qat is chewed by Yemenis of all strata of society, despite being banned or frowned upon by other Islamic countries and groups.

Recently Mr. Ali Saif Hassan, a member of the Political Develpement Forum[1] in Yemen, spoke in the "Dissent and Reform in the Arab World" forum that was hosted by the AEI (American Enterprise Institute).

Governorates

Main article: Governorates of Yemen

As of January 2004, Yemen is divided into 21 governorates (20 proper governorates and a municipality) ([2]. The size, in terms of population, of each governorate is as follows:

Ta`izz 438,656
Ta'iz 590,413
Al Bayda' 571,778
Al Dali' 470,460
Al Hudaydah 2,161,379
Al Jawf 451,426
Al Mahrah 89,093
Al Mahwit 495,865
Amran 872,789
Dhamar 1,339,229
Hadramawt 1,029,462
Hajjah 1,480,897
Ibb (إب) 2,137,546
Lahij 727,203
Ma'rib 241,690
Raimah 395,076
Sa`dah 693,217
San`a' 918,379
San`a' [City] (Capital) 1,747,627
Shabwah 466,889
Total: 21 divisions 19,721,643

Geography

Main article: Geography of Yemen
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Map of Yemen

Yemen is in the Middle East, in the south of Arabia, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea, west of Oman and south of Saudi Arabia. It is considered to be one of the fifteen states that comprise the Cradle of Humanity.

The Red Sea islands: Hanish Islands, Kamaran and Perim as well as Socotra in the Arabian Sea belong to the Yemen

Until recently its northern border was undefined because the Arabian Desert prevented any human habitation there.

The country can be divided geographically into four main regions: the coastal plains in the west, the western highlands, the eastern highlands, and the Rub al Khali in the east.

The Tihamah ("hot lands") form a very arid and flat coastal plain. Despite the aridity, the presence of many lagoons makes this region very marshy and a suitable breeding ground for malarial mosquitoes. There are also extensive crescent-shaped sand dunes. The evaporation in the Tihama is so great that streams from the highlands never reach the sea, but they do contribute to extensive groundwater reserves - which today are heavily exploited for agricultural use.

The Tihamah ends abruptly at the escarpment of the western highlands. This area, now heavily terraced to meet the demand for food, receives the highest rainfall in Arabia, rapidly increasing from 100mm (4 inches) per year to about 760mm (30 inches) in Ta'izz and over 1000mm (40 inches) in Ibb. Agriculture here is very diverse, with such crops as sorghum dominating, but cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with mangoes being the most valuable. Temperatures are hot in the day but fall dramatically at night. There are perennial streams in the highlands but these never reach the sea because of high evaporation in the Tihama.

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Sanaá, the capital of Yemen.

The central highlands are a extensive high plateau over 2,000 metres (6,560 feet) in elevation. This area is drier than the western highlands because of rain-shadow influences, but still receives sufficient rain in wet years for extensive cropping. Diurnal temperature ranges are among the highest in the world: ranges from 30°C (86°F) in the day to 0°C (32°F) at night are normal. Water storage allows for irrigation and the growing of wheat and barley. Sana'a is located in this region. The highest point in Yemen is Jabal an Nabi Shu'aya, at 3,760 meters (12,336 ft).

The Rub al Khali in the East is much lower, generally below 1,000 metres, and receives almost no rain. It is populated only by Bedouin herders of camels.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Yemen

In terms of GDP per capita, Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world and one of the poorest nations in the world. At unification, both the YAR and the PDRY were struggling, underdeveloped economies. In the north, disruptions of civil war (1962-70) and frequent periods of drought had dealt severe blows to a previously prosperous agricultural sector. Coffee, formerly the north's main export and principal form of foreign exchange, declined as the cultivation of qat increased. Low domestic industrial output and a lack of raw materials made the YAR dependent on a wide variety of imports.

Remittances from Yemenis working abroad and foreign aid paid for perennial trade deficits. Substantial Yemeni communities exist in many countries of the world, including Yemen's immediate neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula, Indonesia, India, East Africa, and also the United Kingdom, and the United States. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union and China provided large-scale assistance.

In the south, pre-independence economic activity was overwhelmingly concentrated in the port city of Aden. The seaborne transit trade, which the port relied upon, collapsed with the closure of the Suez Canal and Britain's withdrawal from Aden in 1967.

Since unification, the government has worked to integrate two relatively disparate economic systems. However, severe shocks, including the return in 1990 of approximately 850,000 Yemenis from the Gulf states, a subsequent major reduction of aid flows, and internal political disputes culminating in the 1994 civil war hampered economic growth. Yemen, the fastest growing democracy in the Middle East, is attempting to climb into the middle human development region through ongoing political and economic reform.

Since the conclusion of the war, the government entered into agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to implement a structural adjustment program. Phase one of the IMF program included major financial and monetary reforms, including floating the currency, reducing the budget deficit, and cutting subsidies. Phase two will address structural issues such as civil service reform. The World Bank also is active in Yemen, with 22 active projects in 2004, including projects to improve governance in the public sector, water, and education. Since 1998, the government of Yemen has sought to implement World Bank economic and fiscal recommendations. In subsequent years, Yemen has lowered its debt burden through Paris Club agreements and restructuring U.S. foreign debt. In 2003, government reserves reached $5 billion.

The main oil produced and used in Yemen is Marib oil. Marib oil contains associated natural gas. Proven reserves of 10 to 13 trillion cubic feet (283 to 368 km³) could sustain a liquid natural gas (LNG) export project.

Foreign relations

The geography and ruling Imams of north Yemen kept the country isolated from foreign influence before 1962. The country's relations with Saudi Arabia were defined by the Taif Agreement of 1934, which delineated the northernmost part of the border between the two kingdoms and set the framework for commercial and other intercourse. The Taif Agreement has been renewed periodically in 20-year increments, and its validity was reaffirmed in 1995. Relations with the British colonial authorities in Aden and the south were usually tense.

The Soviet and Chinese Aid Missions established in 1958 and 1959 were the first important non-Muslim presence in north Yemen. Following the September 1962 revolution, the Yemen Arab Republic became closely allied with and heavily dependent upon Egypt. Saudi Arabia aided the royalists in their attempt to defeat the Republicans and did not recognize the Yemen Arab Republic until 1970. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia provided Yemen substantial budgetary and project support. At the same time, Saudi Arabia maintained direct contact with Yemeni tribes, which sometimes strained its official relations with the Yemeni Government. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis found employment in Saudi Arabia during the late 1970s and 1980s.

In February 1989, north Yemen joined Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt in forming the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC), an organization created partly in response to the founding of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and intended to foster closer economic cooperation and integration among its members. After unification, the Republic of Yemen was accepted as a member of the ACC in place of its YAR predecessor. In the wake of the Gulf crisis, the ACC has remained inactive. Yemen is not a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

British authorities left southern Yemen in November 1967 in the wake of an intense rebellion. The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, the successor to British colonial rule, had diplomatic relations with many nations, but its major links were with the Soviet Union and other Marxist countries. Relations between it and the conservative Arab states of the Arabian Peninsula were strained. There were military clashes with Saudi Arabia in 1969 and 1973, and the PDRY provided active support for the Dhofar rebellion against the Sultanate of Oman. The PDRY was the only Arab state to vote against admitting new Arab states from the Persian Gulf area to the United Nations and the Arab League. The PDRY provided sanctuary and material support to various insurgent groups around the Middle East.

Yemen is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Yemen participates in the nonaligned movement. The Republic of Yemen accepted responsibility for all treaties and debts of its predecessors, the YAR and the PDRY. Yemen has acceded to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The Gulf crisis dramatically affected Yemen's foreign relations. As a member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for 1990 and 1991,Yemen abstained on a number of UNSC resolutions concerning Iraq and Kuwait and voted against the "use of force resolution." Western and Gulf Arab states reacted by curtailing or canceling aid programs and diplomatic contacts. At least 850,000 Yemenis returned from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

Subsequent to the liberation of Kuwait, Yemen continued to maintain high-level contacts with Iraq. This hampered its efforts to rejoin the Arab mainstream and to mend fences with its immediate neighbors. In 1993, Yemen launched an unsuccessful diplomatic offensive to restore relations with its Persian Gulf neighbors. Some of its aggrieved neighbors actively aided the south during the 1994 civil war. Since the end of that conflict, tangible progress has been made on the diplomatic front in restoring normal relations with Yemen's neighbors. The Omani-Yemeni border has been officially demarcated. In the summer of 2000, Yemen and Saudi Arabia signed an International Border Treaty settling a 50-year-old dispute over the location of the border between the two countries. Yemen settled its dispute with Eritrea over the Hanish Islands in 1998.

Demographics

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Yemeni men at market
Main article: Demographics of Yemen

Unlike other people of the Arabian Peninsula who have historically been nomads or semi-nomads, Yemenis are almost entirely sedentary and live in small villages and towns scattered throughout the highlands and coastal regions.

Yemenis are divided into two principal Islamic religious groups: 42% Shi'i and 55% Sunni. 30-35% of the Zaidi order of Shi'a Islam, 7-12% of the Ja'fari and Isma'ili orders of Shi'a Islam, 55% of the Shafi'i order of Sunni Islam.

The Shi'is are predominantly in the north and northwest of Yemen whilst the Sunnis are predominantly in the south and southeast.

Yemenis are mainly of Semitic origin. Arabic is the official language, although English is increasingly understood in major cities. In the Mahra area (the extreme east), several non-Arabic languages are spoken. When the former states of north and south Yemen were established, most resident minority groups departed.

The Yemenite Jews once formed a sizeable Jewish minority in Yemen with a distinct culture. This community is reduced to a few hundred individuals, following the Jewish exodus from Arab lands.

The country has one of the world's highest birth rates; the average Yemeni woman bears seven children. Although this is similar to the rate in Somalia to the south, it is roughly twice as high as that of Saudi Arabia and nearly three times as high as those in the more modernized Persian Gulf states.

Languages

While the national language is Arabic (spoken in several regional dialects), Yemen is one of the main homelands of the South Semitic family of languages, which includes the non-Arabic language of the ancient Sabaean Kingdom. Its modern Yemeni descendents are closely related to the modern Semitic languages of Eritrea (Tigrinya) and Ethiopia (Amharic). However, only a small remnant of those languages exists in modern Yemen, notably on the island of Socotra and in the back hills of the Hadhramaut coastal region. Modern South Arabian languages spoken in Yemen include Mehri, with 70,643 speakers, Soqotri, with an estimated 43,000 speakers (2004 census) mainly on the island of Socotra, and Bathari (with an estimated total of only 200 speakers).

English is used as foreign language and is taught in public schools, starting from grade 7, though the quality of instruction is suspect in public school. Private schools using a British or American system teach English and produce the most proficient English speakers in Yemen, but Arabic is the main language of communication. The new generation is proud to learn English, but the availability of English speakers is small compared to other Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Yemen

Holidays

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day    
March 21 Mother's Day    
May 22 Day of National Unity   Celebrates Unification of Republic of Yemen
September 26 Revolution Day 1962 (against the Imams in the North)    
October 14 Revolution Day 1967 (against the British in the South)    
November 30 Independence Day (from the British in the South)    
Dates following the lunar Islamic calendar
Dhul Hijjah 10 Eid al-Adha Eid al-Adha Islamic Festival
Shawwal 1 Eid al-Fitr Eid al-Fitr Islamic Festival
Muharram 1 Muharram   Start of Islamic New Year
  • Music of Yemen