Category Archives: Arab Spring

No Longer Terra Incognita

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The war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen has sparked a series of recent publications on the situation there, a situation which seems to change daily and yet remain the same quagmire. Given the relative lack of reporting earlier in the war, the more books on the Yemen crisis the better. In 2017 there was Marieke Brandt’s Tribes and Politics in Yemen: A History of the Houthi Conflict (London: Hurst), Ginny Hill’s Yemen Endures: Civil War, Saudi Adventurism and the Future of Arabia (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Sarah Phillips’ Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis (NY: Routledge), and Helen Lackner and Daniel Martin Varisco’s edited Yemen and the Gulf States: The Making of a Crisis. Berlin: Gerlach. Among the recent entries in 2018 are Helen Lackner’s Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State (London: Saqi Books), Laurent Bonnefoy’s Yemen and the World: Beyond Insecurity (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Isa Blumis’ Destroying Yemen: What Chaos in Arabia Tells Us about the World (Berkeley: University of California Press), and Marie-Christine Heinze’s edited Yemen and the Search for Stability: Power, Politics and Society after the Arab Spring (London: I. B. Tauris).

Marie Christine Heinze’s edited volume has 13 articles in addition to an Introduction by the editor. The articles were originally written for a conference at the University of Bonn in 2014 with a focus on the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). Events since the start of the Saudi-led war are not covered, but the volume is important for analysis of this transition period. Among the topics covered are the role of intellectuals in Yemen after the Arab Spring, feminist resistance and gender dynamics, the mobilization of tribes in Mahra, Southern views of the Yemeni state, the governance of the reform process, women’s empowerment in the NDC, the competing roles of the Huthis, Islah and the Salafis, the impact of youth, fashion and theater, the threats to Yemen’s heritage and the future role of federalism.

AIYS members Charles Schmitz and Sheila Carapico have written positive endorsements of the volume on the back cover.

This volume can be ordered here.

Charles Schmitz on AIYS

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Charles Schmitz in Sanaa

by Charles Schmitz

I was lucky to arrive in Yemen during the optimistic period that followed unification. By 1993, Ali Salem al-Baydh had already absconded in Aden and the expulsion of Yemeni laborers from Saudi Arabia took a toll on the economy, but there was still a euphoria for the new liberal era.

At the time, AIYS in Safiya Shimaliya hosted a score of prominent researchers headed by Sheila Carapico. Sheila was hard at work on Civil Society composed on a laptop with no screen—as I remember, someone had rigged a big dusty desktop monitor to make do. Iris Glosemeyer meticulously collected newspaper articles on every prominent Yemeni political family and could recite the names of the mothers of the Members of Parliament, as well as their sons and granddaughters, by heart. Anna Wuerth was a regular fixture in family court and the court of AIYS’s mafraj gatherings. Eng Seng Ho appeared occasionally in from the Hadhramawt to boil lobsters (it took a long time in Sanaa’s high altitude) or fix a laptop. Resident Director David Warburton somehow managed to keep the place running. These scholars’ guidance and support were critical to my research in Yemen, and my gratitude to them and to AIYS led me to later serve AIYS in the hopes of providing a new generation of researchers the same supportive experience in Yemen.

I took up residence in al-Hawta, Lahj, to observe the reestablishment of property rights in agricultural land. Though completely rudderless, the Yemeni Socialist Party still controlled the south. Those with foresight in Lahj at the time were the Islahi activists in the rebuilt Ministry of Religious Endowments who were well prepared for their post-war reign of terror in al-Hauta. For comic relief, I would join the resident Abdali clan members whose stories of the socialist years in al-Hawta resembled Garcia Marquez’s surrealism. One of the Sultan’s relatives spent four years locked inside his house before finally emerging to join the socialist experiment in progress. My days in al-Hauta were interrupted by the Seventy Days War of 1994. Though we all had hoped the daily peace demonstrations would prevail, deployment of forces along the former border foreshadowed a different outcome. I flew out of Yemen seated on the rear door of a C-130.

By the time I returned to Yemen in 2001, AIYS had grown significantly thanks to Sheila Carapico and Mac Gibson’s work in the early nineties. AIYS indeed had operated on a shoestring for its early history (see Steve Caton’s t-shirts), but tired of running AIYS with student help from her office at the University of Richmond, Sheila applied for new grants that allowed AIYS to hire professional staff. In 1996 AIYS under Mac Gibson hired its first executive director, Ria Ellis, who ran AIYS from her palatial home office in Ardmore, PA.  Ria and her assistant, Joan Reilly, not only administered an expanded AIYS but also produced a spree of new publications, including much of the translations series by Lucine Taminian and Noha Sadek and Sam Leibhaber’s Diwan of Hajj Dakon.  In the early 2000s under Tom Stevenson’s watch, AIYS landed a Middle East Partnership Initiative grant for a permanent residence. Hired as resident director in 2000, Chris Edens undertook the arduous task of finding a permanent building. Chris not only found a well located and suitable building, but also oversaw its substantial reconstruction and the relocation of AIYS from the Bayt al-Hashem location.

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Markazi Exhibition

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MARKAZI

NYU Abu Dhabi, The Project Space  February 4th – February 27th

NYU New York , 19 Washington Square North    February 4 – May 30, 2018

Markazi, the exhibition, casts light on the conditions of mobility and immobility in Yemen and the Horn of Africa, through its focus on households and everyday life in Markazi. Photographs by Nadia Benchallal, taken over several extended visits between December 2016 and October 2017, depict camp residents navigating a state of increasingly permanent suspension. These household portraits attest to the diversity and dignity of Markazi’s – and Yemen’s – population. In addition to Nadia Benchallal’s black-and-white and color photographs, the exhibit features the work of nine Markazi residents who collaborated with Nadia Benchallal and Nathalie Peutz over the course of a year.

Recent sources on Yemen Conflict

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For the recent AIYS panel at MESA, I put together a list of recent resources on the conflict in Yemen.  Here it is…

Recent Books:
• Brandt, Marieke (2017) Tribes and Politics in Yemen: A History of the Houthi Conflict. London: Hurst.
• Heinze, Marie-Christine (2018) Yemen and the Search for Stability: Power, Politics and Society after the Arab Spring. London: I. B. Tauris.
• Hill, Ginny (2017) Yemen Endures: Civil War, Saudi Adventurism and the Future of Arabia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Lackner, Helen (2018) Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State. London: Saqi Books.
• Lackner, Helen and Daniel Martin Varisco (2017) Yemen and the Gulf States: The Making of a Crisis. Berlin: Gerlach.
• Robinson, Eric et al. (2017) What Factors Cause Individuals to Reject Violent Extremism in Yemen?  Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.

Recent Articles:
• Farrukh, Maher (October 30, 2017) Yemen Crisis Situation Report. CriticalThreats.org: https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/yemen-situation-report/2017-yemen-crisis-situation-report-october-30
• Karasik, Theodore and Giorgio Cafiero (October 25, 2017) Yemen’s Humanitarian Disaster: Halting the Famine Threat. Middle East Institute: http://www.mei.edu/content/yemen-s-humanitarian-disaster-halting-famine-threat
• Kendall, Elisabeth (October, 2017) Iran’s Fingerprints in Yemen: Real or Imagined? Atlantic Council, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/issue-briefs/iran-s-fingerprints-in-yemen-real-or-imagined
• Nasser, Afrah,  (September 21, 2017) The Unfolding UN Failure in the Yemen War. Atlantic Council, MENA Source: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/the-unfolding-un-failure-in-the-yemen-war
• Salisbury, Peter, (December 15, 2017) Yemen’s Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar: Last Sanhan Standing: http://www.agsiw.org/yemens-ali-mohsen-al-ahmar-last-sanhan-standing/

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Sheila Carapico on Yemen

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Professor Sheila Carapico, widely recognized as a leading expert on Yemen, spoke about the country’s current political crisis at the 9/11 Memorial Museum on Monday.

Engaging in a discussion with Clifford Chanin, executive vice president and deputy director for museum programs, Carapico explained the current drivers of Yemen’s ongoing civil war and the history of Saudi influence in Yemen.

In the clip below, Carapico locates the Yemeni Civil War within the broader Middle East:

“The kingdoms of the Arabian Peninsula, they were worried about the uprising in Tunisia. They were worried about Egypt, they were worried about Libya, they were worried about Syria… They were panicked about Yemen. It’s right there, it’s so close and it’s half the indigenous population of the whole region.”

New Book on Yemen and the Gulf States

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This book has just been published by Gerlach Press:

YEMEN AND THE GULF STATES: THE MAKING OF A CRISIS
Edited by Helen Lackner, Daniel Martin Varisco
Publisher: Gerlach Press, Berlin & London
Hardcover, 143 pages
ISBN: 978-3-959940-30-6
Publication date: October 2017
EUR 85 / GBP 80

More information on the title and the order form can be downloaded from here:

Title Information with TOC:
http://www.gerlach-books.de/attachment/INFO_GerlachPress_Lackner_Yemen_Sept2017.pdf

Order Form:
http://www.gerlach-books.de/attachment/Order_Form_Lackner_Yemen_Aug2017.pdf

The South in the Yemeni Conflict Panel

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At the upcoming annual MESA conference in Washington, D.C., AIYS is sponsoring two panels on Yemen. The second panel is entitled “The South in the Yemeni Conflict” (P4744) and was organized by Charles Schmitz. This will take place Sunday, 11/19/17 at 10:30am. [For details on the first panel, click here.]

The panelists include:

Noel Brehony ( Menas Associates  )
“Regionalism and nationalism in South Yemen”
•  Elisabeth Kendall ( Oxford University )
“What Does Eastern Yemen Want and What Is It Doing About It? The Voice of al-Mahra”
•   Thanos Petouris (Independent Scholar)
“Southern Yemen after the Saudi Intervention: Political and Social Change”
•   Charles P. Schmitz (Towson University)
“Salafism in the South”

Here is the Panel Abstract:

This panel will explore the new political and social developments in the south in order to chart the possible contours of the new southern Yemeni landscape.  In 2007 the Hirak, or southern movement, emerged with a clear political agenda for political autonomy but without a coherent leadership. In 2012 following the fall of the Saleh regime, Hadi’s transitional government installed southerners in key leadership positions in Yemen’s government, but most southerners remained very wary of Hadi’s government and largely boycotted the National Dialogue Conference that created the proposed federal Yemeni state.

The Houthi coup in late 2014 and the military onslaught of the Houthi Saleh forces on Aden in the spring of 2015 dramatically transformed the southern political landscape. The emergence of the southern resistance brought new leaders to the fore, the Emirati reconstruction of the southern security apparatus is building the foundations of new leadership in the governorates, and the Hadi government in Aden is vying for legitimacy in the south for the national government. These developments have dramatically transformed the southern political landscape in yet unknown ways. The panel aims to clarify some of these new developments in the south.

AIYS at MESA 2017

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At the upcoming annual MESA conference in Washington, D.C., AIYS is sponsoring two panels on Yemen.  The first is a roundtable entitled “Updating the Yemen Crisis” (RS4740 on the program at  Monday, 11/20/17, 3:30pm ). For details on the second panel, click here.

Participants include:

• Nadwa Aldawsari  ((Project on Middle East Democracy)
• H.E. Amat al-Alim Alsoswa  (Former Minister of Human Rights, Yemen)
• Sheila Carapico  (University of Richmond)
• Walid Mahdi (University of Oklahoma)
• Daniel Martin Varisco (President, AIYS)

Here is the abstract of the panel:

Of all the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, one of the least reported in the media is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen.  This forum brings together five experts who work on Yemen to discuss the current state of the conflict in Yemen, changes in the shifting alliances and prospects for cessation of hostilities. These experts come from the disciplines of Anthropology, Political Science and American Studies, as well as a former senior Yemeni diplomat. The goal is to provide an update on the current state of the civil strife in Yemen by the time of the annual meeting. The turmoil in Yemen is part of a wider regional struggle that has pitted Sunni vs. Shi’a groups in a political battle for influence and dominance. Following the “Arab Spring” revolution in Yemen that led to the removal of Ali Abdullah Salih after three decades of power, a failed National Dialogue Conference failed to reconcile political differences. The expulsion of interim President Hadi by the Huthi/Salih forces led to a protracted bombing campaign by a Saudi-led coalition after March, 2015. Yemen, unified as a state in 1990, has been split apart by competing sectarian factions, with a Huthi/Salih alliance in the north, anti-Huthi Saudi-backed forces in the south around Aden and cells of Ansar Shariah (al-Qaida) and ISIS in the east.

Despite international efforts brokered by the United Nations to resolve the conflict, there has been no viable resolution to the conflict by the start of 2017.  Many experts consider the conflict an unwinnable war, yet it drags on. The extent of destruction, primarily from the bombing campaign and blockade, has affected the entire population.  Over 10,000 thousand civilians, including many women and children, have been killed, in addition to an unknown number of combatants.  In January, 2017, the UN Humanitarian director of OCHA noted that every ten minutes a Yemeni child died of preventable causes.  Hospitals and clinics, even those maintained by Medecins sans frontieres, have been bombed, as well as many factories, mosques and heritage monuments. Massive unemployment has created a potential pool for the different armed groups fighting each other for power. The roundtable is intended not only to update information on the situation but also to stimulate research by scholars in multiple disciplines on one of the major humanitarian crises in the Middle East.

New Film on Sanaa

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The first showing of a documentary film entitled: “Sanaa In the Eyes of Creators” had its premier in Sanaa on Saturday August 19, 2017. The nearly one-hour long film was produced by the Qatar-based filmmaker Dr. Fuad Abdulaziz. In coordination between AIYS and Dr. Abdulaziz, the film premiered at the Yemeni Center for Studies and Researches (YCSR). The limited audience included  Yemen’s great poet and author Dr. Abdulaziz al-Maqalih, a few researchers and a representative of AIYS for watching the film.

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Dr. al-Maqalih, far right

This documentary mainly focuses on two main ideas: Sanaa as an ancient city and Sanaa under attack since 2015. In the first part, filmed mainly in 2013 and 2014, the producer highlights Sanaa as an old city that inspires a variety of Yemeni artists. The second part  deals with the impact on Sanaa of the bombing.  The film, as its title bears, is designed to reflect Yemeni artists’ and intellectuals’ views and impressions on the old city of Sanaa. It also shows the old city’s troubles caused by the ongoing civil war and Arab coalition military intervention in the conflict. The film provides an overall picture of the old city created by dozens of shots and quotations, including poetry. The producer devotes major space to the Yemeni artists’ testimonies. A number of prominent creators give their opinions on the old city of Sanaa that inspired their artistic works as created by authors, painters, poets, singers and other artists.

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