Cheat Sheet: Yemen’s War

Mar 8, 2019 · 3 min read

by Sarah Afaneh

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UNDP Yemen

Yemen: forgotten, famished, and falling. A war wages in Yemen–suffering civilians and a country in destruction — while the rest of the world turns its shoulder.

Yemen’s war began only three years ago in March 2015, but its conflict dates back to the Arab Spring circa 2011, which encompassed a series of revolutions culminating in the ousting of major dictators across the Middle East. Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was among those who were forced to resign and delegate his power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. However, this political transition failed and sparked unrest throughout Yemen, leaving the population with massive unemployment, food insecurity, and multiple suicide bombings (1).

These conditions, completely opposite to the vision put forth by the Arab Spring, led to the emergence of several separatist groups and opposition to the government. The most prominent of these is the Houthi movement, an armed Shia rebel group who took control of Yemen’s capital in 2014 as a means of rebellion against the government and in the name of popular revolt. This success evolved into an attempt by the Houthis, allying with loyalists to former President Saleh, to take control of the entire country in 2015.

Consequently, President Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, who considered Houthi actions a legitimate threat mainly due to their association of it with Iran. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supporting the rebels, as a means to seize the opportunity of gaining foothold on the border, although Tehran denies any involvement (1).

As a result, Saudi Arabia created an alliance and military campaign, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Sudan, Bahrain, Senegal and Morocco. Other countries, such as, and primarily, the United States, further support and aid the Saudi-led coalition through the provision of weapons, intelligence and logistics (1).

The coalition, a military intervention, only heightened the conflict further, to say the least. War, full-blown armed conflict, was sparked in March 2015 due to the Saudi-led coalition launching an air strike against the Houthi group. This was an attempt to take back the North and capital and restore Hadi’s government. Not only did the attempt fail, but Saudi’s actions have exacerbated the war, and the impacts of this are devastating.

Yemen’s civil war has been classified as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Al Jazeera English classified it as a “violent playground for regional and international powers,” where civilians are the victims, the bearers of this conflict. Since February 2014, more than 15,000 people have been killed and at least 3 million are displaced, forced to flee their homes (1). The country’s infrastructure has been destroyed with restrictions on food and fuel imports, 17 million expected to face famine and two-thirds of the population already lacking access to clean water. Amnesty International reports that approximately 22.2 million Yemenis today rely on humanitarian assistance in order to survive.

Attempts to mediate the conflict have so far failed, with further exacerbation of war and deterioration of the country and its citizens. Thus, Yemen currently stands in a deadlock (1).

  1. English, Al Jazeera. Explainer: The War in Yemen Explained in 3 Minutes. YouTube, YouTube, 3 July 2017,

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