Category Archives: Conferences

Yemen Exchange in Beirut

April 12-16, 2017
Application Deadline I March 15/Deadline II April 1, 2017
35 slots only/Rolling acceptanceThe First Yemen Exchange (convened in Beirut, Lebanon) is co-hosted by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies (SCSS) and Mideastwire.com. During the five day program, participants from around the world will listen and engage Yemeni politicians, civil society figures and analysts in order to provide direct and intensive insight into Yemen, from several differing perspectives. As such, the Exchange is a fundamental part of SCSS’s attempt to increase the content, space and conversations on Yemen with the hope that increased dialogue and understanding will ultimately help to create the conditions for sustainable peace-building. The five day Yemen Exchange rests on two tracks:

Continue reading Yemen Exchange in Beirut

AIYS at MESA

AIYS held two well-attended panels at MESA in Boston last week.  Here are some of the photos from the panel organized by Dan Mahoney on the destruction of Yemen’s cultural heritage:

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Dr. Lamya Khalidi, Dr. Krista Lewis and Dr. Dan Mahoney at MESA

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Dr. McGuire Gibson at the heritage panel.  Dr. Gibson was the founder of AIYS in 1978.

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Dr. Lamya Khalidi, who also provided a video of Dr. al-Sayani, the current Director of the General Organization of Antiquities  and Museums in Yemen.

And here are photos from the panel organized by Dr. Marieke Brandt:

Continue reading AIYS at MESA

Yemen’s World Heritage in Venice

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Dr. Alessandro de Maigret (1943-2011)

Announcing an Exhibition and Conference

Yemen’s World Heritage. Archaeology, Art and Architecture
Museum of Oriental Art in Venice
October 20 – December 16, 2016

A joint initiative of:
Museums of the Veneto – Museum of Oriental Art , Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage, Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen, Monumenta Orientalia, Rome

The Oriental Art Museum, the Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage and the Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen want to promote a series of events to make known in Venice’s the historic and artistic heritage of Yemen. Since March 2015 Yemen has been in a conflict in which the bombing violated numerous protected sites both nationally and internationally recognized, and destroyed museums and monuments of the rich cultural past of the country.
Recently, UNESCO reiterated its condemnation of the destruction perpetrated against the world heritage of Yemen and initiated a campaign # Unite4Heritage, the Yemeni Heritage Week: Museums United for Yemen for 2016, involving the major museums of Europe (the British Museum, Musée du Louvre, Hermitage, etc.).

From Prehistory to the present day the extreme tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has preserved unique features in the production of their material culture, whose forms are as native as the result of exchanges and synergies with Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean. Historians of Greek and Roman classicism used to talk about Yemen using the nickname Arabia Felix, as a land of prosperity and wealth, not only material but also geographical and territorial. Yemen was, in fact, at the center of an important caravan and maritime trade axis: here met traders from India and the Horn of Africa with those who would later traced to the north of the Peninsula to enrich the courts of the various empires in Mediterranean with products such as incense, myrrh, spices, pearls and precious stones.
The deep bond of man with the settlement territory is expressed in through the remains of south Arabian kingdoms – the most notable of which is the Kingdom of Sheba – which were already using the house typology commonly referred as Yemen “tower house”.
With the start of Islam then, the Yemeni architecture has been enhanced with new forms and stylistic paradigms, and many temples of the pagan tradition turned into mosques. Archaeological studies conducted in Yemen have shown a slow and lasting osmosis between pre-Islamic and Islamic civilization.

The initiative promoted at the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice will go right to investigate this union, to raise awareness of an almost unknown cultural heritage in the West, whose origins are lost in the often muffled contours of myth.

The initiative also wants to highlight some Italian experiences, namely that of the Italian Archaeological Mission in the Republic of Yemen (MAIRY), began in 1980 and that of the Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage began in 2005. Both have as their purpose the protection and enhancement of Yemeni heritage and both have been accomplished in total synergy with local counterparts, thus becoming moments of much scientific as human enrichment.

A series of seminars and meetings, by national and international experts at the Oriental Art Museum, will bring the public closer to the peculiarities of the history and culture of the country. In the room which will host the conference there will be some photo-descriptive panels on display that will illustrate some aspects of archeology, art and architecture of Yemen as  direct testimony of both the Italian Archaeological Mission and  the Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage.

Continue reading Yemen’s World Heritage in Venice

AIYS MESA Roundtable on Destruction of Yemen’s Heritage

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The following roundtable will take place at the annual MESA meeting in Boston on November 18.

[R4434] The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Yemen and Current Preservation Efforts

Created by Daniel Mahoney
Friday, 11/18/16 10:00am
Participants: McGuire Gibson, David B. Hollenberg, Krista Lewis, Lamya Khalidi

SUMMARY:
This roundtable, sponsored by the American Institute for Yemeni studies, will discuss the destruction of cultural heritage in Yemen, in light of the Saudi coalition air strikes as well as the ensuing internal conflict and rising Islamism, in order to assess the extent of damage and solutions for current protection and future preservation. Since March 2015, Saudi coalition air strikes have been conducted in Yemen under the stated purpose of countering Houthi rebels who had taken control of the capital Sanaa and a large part of the country. This offensive has left over 6,000 dead, over 30,000 wounded, and 2.5 million internally displaced. Another result has been the continuous destruction of over 47 archaeological sites and monuments, as confirmed by Mohannad Al-Sayani, director of the General Organization for Antiquities and Museums of Yemen. These include not only historical mosques and citadels, but also 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites including the celebrated vernacular architecture of old Sanaa, the pre-Islamic cities of Baraqish and Sirwah, and the famed Marib dam, all of which have already previously undergone significant restoration efforts. Additionally, more than six museums have been damaged by aerial shelling, among them the regional museum of Dhamar and the National Museum of Sanaa. This extensive destruction clearly provokes further questioning into the motivations of these campaigns which seem to target highly valued places of cultural heritage. The pattern becomes further complicated by the confirmation that, while the U.S. State Department (and UNESCO) had given the Saudi coalition a list of specific sites to avoid and their location, they also provided it with logistical support and intelligence for their military offensive. Conversely, other efforts have are being made to try to preserve and document Yemeni heritage before it is lost, such as the Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative, wherein a team of scholars from inside and outside of Yemen are working together to create a digital library of manuscripts taken from private collections in Yemen. By addressing current damage, this round table is organized with the intention of raising awareness regarding the destruction of priceless world heritage and finding current and future solutions for its protection and preservation by local authorities and specialists.

AIYS at MESA 2016

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The annual MESA conference will be held in Boston this year from November 17-20.

AIYS–American Institute for Yemeni Studies
Thursday, 11/17  Board Meeting, 4-6pm, Orleans (4)
The Board meeting is for AIYS board members.

Friday, 11/18  Business Meeting, 5:30-6:30pm, Brandeis (3)
The business meeting is open to anyone who is interested.

AIYS sponsored Panel:
[P4302] Yemen: From Zaydi Revivalism to Huthi Expansionism

Created by Marieke Brandt
Chair: Daniel Martin Varisco
Saturday, 11/19/16 10:00am
•    The Curriculum and channels of knowledge for contemporary Zaydi ‘ulama’ in the Yemeni highlands by Hollenberg, David B.
•    Itineraries of expansion: The Sa‘dah Wars revisited by Brandt, Marieke
•    Antiauthoritarianism, Outreach and Misdirection: Unpacking the Houthis’ March to Sana’a and Beyond by Salisbury, Peter
•    Strategic Implications of Huthi Expansionism, Perpetual Insecurity and Internal War in Yemen by Seitz, Adam
SUMMARY:
Zaydism is a branch of Shia Islam which can look back on a millennium of continuity in the northern parts of Yemen. Since Zaydism is regarded as a particularly tolerant form of Islam, its coexistence with Yemen’s other denominations was historically largely unproblematic. About 25 years ago, however, a development started which substantially undermined the coexistence of denominations in Yemen. The increasing spread of radical Sunnism (Salafism and Wahhabism) in Yemen, funded by neighboring Saudi Arabia, as well as the economic and political neglect of large sections of the Zaydi north by the Salih regime has led to the emergence of a Zaydi revivalism movement which was inspired by a deep sense of peril. As a result, previously unknown divisions and fault lines between Sunni and Shiite denominations began to arise in Yemen.
In 2001 a group known as Ansar Allah or Huthis, taking their name from the family of a noted Zaydi scholar, splintered off the nascent Zaydi revival movement by schism. In 2004 the Salih regime entered into a brutal six-year war against the Huthis, creating a martyr with the killing of Husayn al-Huthi, a prominent critic of Salih’s regime. After the resignation of President Salih in 2012, the Huthis were able to conquer large parts of northern Yemen including the capital Sana’a which they seized in 2014 with the assistance of army troops still loyal to Salih. The military campaign against the Huthis carried out by a Saudi-led international alliance of Sunni states, which began in 2015, has eventually turned Yemen into a central crisis zone and humanitarian disaster in today’s globalizing world. Although very much a proxy war in the expanding sectarian rhetoric between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the ongoing war has turned Yemen into an internal struggle for power between numerous groups and ideologies.
The panel aims at elucidating historical roots and current aspects of both Zaydi revivalism and Huthi expansionism by the means and tools of a number of scholarly disciplines (religious studies, social anthropology, political science, and strategic studies). The panel focuses on Huthi struggles to demarcate a Zaydi identity in the Modern Middle East; the impact of the so called “Sa’dah Wars” which the Yemeni state waged against the Huthis from 2004 to 2010; Huthi politics of political alliances since 2011; and strategic aspects of Huthi expansionist ambitions in Yemen. Through considering this wide array of aspects, the panel aims to shed light on the often opaque transformations and developments of previous years and decades and thus to achieve a better understanding of current conflict in Yemen.

Other Yemen Papers at MESA

[P4369-18299] The Southern Baptist Medical Mission to Yemen, 1964-2002 by Asher Orkaby (Sunday, 11/20/16 8:00am)

[P4627-19118] The State Crisis in Yemen. The Quest for the Republic of South Arabia, Other Statutory Solutions and the Fight for Power by Susanne Dahlgren (Friday, 11/18/16 8:00am)

[P4520-18781] “Ittassilli, ya Marina”: Friendship, Frustration and Despair in Yemen by Marina de Regt (Friday, 11/18/16 5:45pm)

Yemen at Gulf Research Meeting

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Dr. Najwa Adra  (4th from left), AIYS member, presenting her paper at GRM in Cambridge.

The annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM) was held in Cambridge, England last week (August 16-19).  Given the current crisis in Yemen, there was considerable attention paid to the conflict.  AIYS President Daniel Varisco and noted expert on Yemen Helen Lackner organized a panel on “Yemen and the GCC: Future Relations.”

A total of 13 papers were presented:
• Najwa Adra: “Tribes in Yemen: A Problem or Potential Solution”
• Hanin Abou Salem:  “Yemen & the GCC: Sectarianism & Future Relations”
• Ahmed Baabood: “The Future Role of Oman in Yemen”
• Marieke Brandt:  “Yemen’s Arduous Road to Peace: Twelve Years of Mediation with the Ḥūthīs Revisited”
•Maria-Louise Clausen:  “How Being Defined as a Fragile State can Legitimize Intervention: The Case of Yemen”
• Sterling Jensen “The Future of Yemen: The Economic and Security Roles of the GCC”
• Ashraf Mishrif: “Role of GCC in Yemen’s Economic Development”
• Raza Naeem (distance presentation) “ Understanding the Rise of Radicalism in Yemen; and Notes from Pakistan”
• Arash Reisinezhad and Parisa Farhadi (distance presentation): “Ambiguous Connections: Iran and the Yemeni Houthis”
• Daniel Martin Varisco: “Developing Yemen’s Futures:  Can Arabia Ever be Felix Again?”
• AJG Wight and RJ Spencer: “Rehabilitating the Yemeni Defence and Security Establishment”
• Cornelia Zeineddin:  “The Gulf Countries’ Foreign Policy Changes and Standpoint in Yemen”
• Mahjoob Zweiri:  “Yemen in the Context of Iran-Gulf Relations”

More AIYS at MESA 2016

AIYS will be sponsoring a second panel at MESA in Boston, as follows:

[R4434] The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Yemen and Current Preservation Efforts

Created by Daniel Mahoney
Friday, 11/18/16 10:00am

SUMMARY:

This roundtable, sponsored by the American Institute for Yemeni studies, will discuss the destruction of cultural heritage in Yemen, in light of the Saudi coalition air strikes as well as the ensuing internal conflict and rising Islamism, in order to assess the extent of damage and solutions for current protection and future preservation. Since March 2015, Saudi coalition air strikes have been conducted in Yemen under the stated purpose of countering Houthi rebels who had taken control of the capital Sanaa and a large part of the country. This offensive has left over 6,000 dead, over 30,000 wounded, and 2.5 million internally displaced. Another result has been the continuous destruction of over 47 archaeological sites and monuments, as confirmed by Mohannad Al-Sayani, director of the General Organization for Antiquities and Museums of Yemen. These include not only historical mosques and citadels, but also 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites including the celebrated vernacular architecture of old Sanaa, the pre-Islamic cities of Baraqish and Sirwah, and the famed Marib dam, all of which have already previously undergone significant restoration efforts. Additionally, more than six museums have been damaged by aerial shelling, among them the regional museum of Dhamar and the National Museum of Sanaa. This extensive destruction clearly provokes further questioning into the motivations of these campaigns which seem to target highly valued places of cultural heritage. The pattern becomes further complicated by the confirmation that, while the U.S. State Department (and UNESCO) had given the Saudi coalition a list of specific sites to avoid and their location, they also provided it with logistical support and intelligence for their military offensive. Conversely, other efforts have are being made to try to preserve and document Yemeni heritage before it is lost, such as the Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative, wherein a team of scholars from inside and outside of Yemen are working together to create a digital library of manuscripts taken from private collections in Yemen. By addressing current damage, this round table is organized with the intention of raising awareness regarding the destruction of priceless world heritage and finding current and future solutions for its protection and preservation by local authorities and specialists.

The panel will be chaired by Dr. Daniel Mahoney. The panelists include:

AIYS at MESA 2016

At the annual MESA conference, to be held in Boston from November 17-21 , AIYS has a sponsored panel as detailed below:

[P4302] Yemen: From Zaydi Revivalism to Huthi Expansionism

Created by Marieke Brandt
Saturday, 11/19/16 10:00am

SUMMARY:

Zaydism is a branch of Shia Islam which can look back on a millennium of continuity in the northern parts of Yemen. Since Zaydism is regarded as a particularly tolerant form of Islam, its coexistence with Yemen’s other denominations was historically largely unproblematic. About 25 years ago, however, a development started which substantially undermined the coexistence of denominations in Yemen. The increasing spread of radical Sunnism (Salafism and Wahhabism) in Yemen, funded by neighboring Saudi Arabia, as well as the economic and political neglect of large sections of the Zaydi north by the Salih regime has led to the emergence of a Zaydi revivalism movement which was inspired by a deep sense of peril. As a result, previously unknown divisions and fault lines between Sunni and Shiite denominations began to arise in Yemen.

In 2001 a group known as Ansar Allah or Huthis, taking their name from the family of a noted Zaydi scholar, splintered off the nascent Zaydi revival movement by schism. In 2004 the Salih regime entered into a brutal six-year war against the Huthis, creating a martyr with the killing of Husayn al-Huthi, a prominent critic of Salih’s regime. After the resignation of President Salih in 2012, the Huthis were able to conquer large parts of northern Yemen including the capital Sana’a which they seized in 2014 with the assistance of army troops still loyal to Salih. The military campaign against the Huthis carried out by a Saudi-led international alliance of Sunni states, which began in 2015, has eventually turned Yemen into a central crisis zone and humanitarian disaster in today’s globalizing world. Although very much a proxy war in the expanding sectarian rhetoric between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the ongoing war has turned Yemen into an internal struggle for power between numerous groups and ideologies.

The panel aims at elucidating historical roots and current aspects of both Zaydi revivalism and Huthi expansionism by the means and tools of a number of scholarly disciplines (religious studies, social anthropology, political science, and strategic studies). The panel focuses on Huthi struggles to demarcate a Zaydi identity in the Modern Middle East; the impact of the so called “Sa’dah Wars” which the Yemeni state waged against the Huthis from 2004 to 2010; Huthi politics of political alliances since 2011; and strategic aspects of Huthi expansionist ambitions in Yemen. Through considering this wide array of aspects, the panel aims to shed light on the often opaque transformations and developments of previous years and decades and thus to achieve a better understanding of current conflict in Yemen.

The panel will be chaired by Dan Varisco. Panelists are:

Help Preserve Yemen’s Architectural Heritage

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The initiative to represent Yemen in Venice

How it started

Back in the Netherlands – after having worked in Yemen for years – Lidwien Scheepers was looking for an opportunity to present Yemen in a positive way on the world stage as Yemen is a misrepresented country from various perspectives. She has found this opportunity in the form of the International Architecture Exhibition in Venice in 2016.

In November 2014 Lidwien Scheepers visited the International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. She noted the presence of some Arab countries and the absence of Yemen. During this visit she managed to contact the responsible person of the Visual Arts and Architecture Department of the Biennale who explained to her the procedure to follow in order to have Yemen invited as a national participant by the President of the Biennale.

Seen the rich and fascinating architectural heritage of Yemen Lidwien DSCF1397Scheepers is eager to have this beautiful country for the first time shining on this leading international platform for architecture in Venice in 2016.

The first step to be taken in order to represent Yemen in Venice was the participation request “by the competent Governmental Authority through which the Country normally performs activities of the same type”. Therefore, Yemeni supporters of the initiative approached the Yemeni Deputy Minister of Culture, H.E. Huda Ablan. She welcomed the idea to represent Yemen in the International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. Thereafter, the required correspondence with the Biennale was drafted in close cooperation with the Deputy Minister of Culture and the Undersecretary for Cultural Relations, Mr. Ayed Ali Al-Shawafy. On 9 September 2015 Yemen received the official invitation from the President of the Biennale as a national participant.

Where we stand right now

The challenge ahead is the nomination of the commissioner and the curator as well as the development of an idea/concept and a design of the Yemeni participation in collaboration with Yemenis and other experts that worked on Yemen heritage. Subsequently, a detailed proposal for the exhibition project has to be developed. It goes without saying that funds are needed for implementation.

AIYS in Denver

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AIYS Panel Members
left to right: Dr. Mohammed Sharafuddin, Dr. Sam Liebhaber, Dr. Marieke Brandt, Dr. Najwa Adra, Dr. Daniel Martin Varisco, Dr. Waleed F. Mahdi

On Sunday, November 22, AIYS sponsored a panel at MESA in Denver entitled “Turmoil and Tolerance: Unpacking the Current Crisis in Yemen.”  The panel was well attended, with over 50 present at one point.  Details on the papers presented can be found here.