Yemen, formally known as the Republic of Yemen, is an Arab nation in Western Asia that occupies the Arabian Peninsula’s southernmost tip, South Arabia. Yemen is the peninsula’s second-largest nation, with 527,970 km2 (203,850 sq mi). The shoreline extends for about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi).
It is bounded to the north by Saudi Arabia, to the west by the Red Sea, to the south by the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, and to the east and northeast by Oman. Although Sana’a is Yemen’s officially declared capital, the city has been under rebel control since February 2015. As a result, Yemen’s capital has been temporarily moved to Aden, a port city on the country’s southern coast. Yemen’s territory consists of around 200 islands, the biggest of which is Socotra.
Yemen was the home of the Sabaeans (biblical Sheba), a trade state that lasted over a thousand years and likely encompassed portions of modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea. The area was ruled by the later Jewish-influenced Himyarite Kingdom in 275 AD. Christianity came in the fourth century, when Judaism and local paganism had already established themselves. In the seventh century, Islam expanded rapidly, and Yemenite soldiers played an important role in the early Islamic conquests. Yemen’s administration has long been notoriously tough.
From the ninth through the sixteenth centuries, many dynasties arose, with the Rasulid dynasty being the most powerful and wealthy. In the early twentieth century, the nation was split between the Ottoman and British empires. Before the formation of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1962, the Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen was founded in North Yemen after World War I. Until 1967, South Yemen was a British protectorate known as the Aden Protectorate. In 1990, the two Yemeni states merged to create the current country of Yemen.
Yemen is a developing nation and the Middle East’s poorest country. Yemen was characterized as a kleptocracy under President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s reign. Yemen rated 164 out of 182 nations questioned in Transparency International’s 2009 International Corruption Perception Index. In the absence of strong state institutions, Yemen’s elite politics formed a de facto type of collaborative governance, in which conflicting tribal, regional, religious, and political interests agreed to keep each other in check via tacit acceptance of the balance it generated. A power-sharing agreement between three men held the informal political settlement together: president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who controlled the state; Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who controlled the majority of the Republic of Yemen Armed Forces; and Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, figurehead of the Islamist Islah party and Saudi Arabia’s chosen broker of transnational patronage payments. The Saudi funds were made to promote the tribes’ independence from the Yemeni government and to provide the Saudi government with a vehicle to weigh in on Yemen’s political decision-making.
Yemen has been in a political crisis since 2011, beginning with public demonstrations over poverty, unemployment, and corruption, as well as President Saleh’s intention to change Yemen’s constitution and remove the presidential term limit, thus making him president for life. President Saleh stepped down, and the office was passed to Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was officially elected president in a one-man election on 21 February 2012. Conflicts between the Houthis and al-Islah, as well as the al-Qaeda insurgency, hampered the transitional process.
The Houthis seized over Sana’a in September 2014, subsequently putting themselves in charge of the government in a coup d’état. Since then, a Saudi-led intervention has taken place, but it has not been able to put an end to the civil conflict.