Category Archives: Development

International Women’s Day 2017

drivingIn celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, the Middle East Program, the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, and Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center collected essays from 33 women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the United States, and elsewhere to mark the occasion. We bring together their responses—which cover a wide geographic region and a wide range of views—in this publication. The full publication is available here.

Amatalalim Alsoswa, former Yemeni Minister For Human Rights, and founder of Yemeni Women National Committee (Yemen)

Unfortunately, the United Nation’s attempts to establish a ceasefire in Yemen to stop the war that began on March 26, 2015 have been unsuccessful, because of the intransigence of the involved parties.

According to the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan, in 2017, 18.8 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, and 10.3 million people are in “acute” need of humanitarian aid. Health care, educational services, and the public treasury are collapsing, and famine has become widespread. Many people are unable to send their children to school because so many people have stopped working, there is a shortage of textbooks, and the costs of studying in government and private schools are high.

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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 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:

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Burrowes on Dr. Abd al-Karim Al-Eryani

AKI Fragments
by Robert Burrowes


Dr. Abd al-Karim Al-Eryani (AKI) was diminutive—I mean short, really short.  From time to time, a professor in the PhD program in Yale allegedly would come into class and exclaim: “Can’t believe it, but I just saw a driverless car with no one behind the wheel speeding across the campus.” The car he was alluding to was in fact one being driven by AKI who could only look through and not over the wheel.

If it wasn’t Dr. AKI who told me this tale, it was probably Middle East specialist Michael Hudson who did.  He and AKI were PhD students at Yale at the same time, Mike in political science and AKI in biology.  And this reminds me that it was Mike who facilitated my meeting Dr. AKI, and it also lets me illustrate things about the man.  As the following tale suggests, and regardless of his place in government, society or family, Dr. AKI did not tower over people—and this was not a function of his physical size.  He was by nature a welcoming, open and generous man.

At the urging of a political friend in Taiz, I had come  to Sanaa in spring 1976 in order to meet Dr. AKI, head of the Central Planning Organization.  An unemployed American academic and a refugee from Lebanon’s Civil War, I only made it halfway up the stairs to Dr. AKI’s office before I totally lost confidence, stopped and retreated.  Luckily for me, following me down the stairs was my friend Mike Hudson who had just met with his friend, Dr. AKI.  When Mike told me he was going the next day down to the Tihama with Dr. AKI for three days for a ceremony at the Wadi Zabiid Project, I proclaimed my envy.  Mike said:  “No problem. Show up with your bag at the hotel tomorrow morning.  I will introduce you to Dr. AKI and he will invite you to go along.  And that is precisely what happened.

We had a wonderful three days together, going down to and from the Tihama, in Wadi Zabid and for two nights in a modest hotel in al-Hodeidah.  Over these days, I learned more about the politics and recent political history of Yemen than I had over the previous half year in the country.  This proved to be the beginning of my political education—and nearly forty years of friendship.  He welcomed me with open arms dozens of times.  Some three decades later, not long after the Yemeni unification that he had helped engineer, Abd al-Karim invited me and several others for a week’s stay on an extraordinary island, Socotra.  We had a wonderful time, as did the Yemeni politician with the PhD in biology from Yale.  I think Mike Hudson was with us.

Was Dr. AKI politically naïve?  Yes—and no.  I think he was forever a political optimist, and at times I thought he was too much so.  When exasperated colleagues urged that after decades it was time to be rid of Dr. AKI, President Salih is alleged to have said “No, we need him and are going to work and ride him like a donkey until he drops over dead”.

In his second tour as prime minister, Dr. AKI chose as a main task the reform of a greatly inflated, incompetent and costly civil service that had gotten worse over the decades.  After months of effort, he was able to go before President Salih and announce that he had finally achieved agreement on a plan that would eliminate thousands of “shadow” positions, save lots of money and allow the leadership to focus on creating an effective government work force.  In response, the president announced to Dr. AKI that he had just reinforced tribal support for the regime by creating and financing thousands of “shadow” military jobs for tribal militias.  And so it went.

On the other hand, Dr. AKI often revealed a strong sense of political insight and awareness. Introduced to the Arab world in the late 1950s, I was for decades a disciple of Gamal Abdul Nasser, and coming to Yemen in 1975, a year after Ibrahim al-Hamdi seized power, I quickly became something of a disciple to the person many hailed as “the little Nasser”. Early on, I noticed in Dr. AKI a lack of enthusiasm for President al-Hamdi, and at some point I questioned him on this. He answered with a story: “On one of the few times I met alone with Ibrahim he drew close to me, tapped me on my knee, and softly said this:  “‘Abd al-Karim, I have one great weakness—I don’t trust anyone.’  Quickly, Ibrahim’s distrust poisoned his regime and spread to everyone.  And, in the end, his colleagues in the military got him before he got them.”  Clearly, Dr. AKI’s take on al-Hamdi was much better than mine.

Another story told to me by Dr. AKI or someone else in the Al-Eryani family relates to the above.  When the rare military member of the family, the one who had previously advised President Abd al-Rahman al-Eryani on military affairs, returned to Yemen from exile, he told members of the family that the distribution of troops around Sanaa could only mean that the military was positioned to overthrow al-Hamdi.  When he asked family leaders whether he should warn al-Hamdi of the danger, he was told by Dr. AKI that the president, long suspicious and distrustful of the al-Eryani family, would reject the warning, accuse the family of sowing discord, and punish the al-Eryanis.

To donate to the Memorial Fellowship Fund for Yemeni Scholars in honor of Dr. Al-Eryani, click here.



New Book: Arabia Incognita

In 2011, millions of Yemenis calling themselves the Peaceful Youth joyfully joined the “Arab Spring.” Four years later, popular aspirations for social justice and a serious attempt at national dialogue were thwarted by deadly domestic power struggles. When the pro-Saudi, US-supported government fled to Riyadh in April 2015, the Kingdom led a multinational military intervention inside Yemen. By December, daily bombardment had killed thousands of fighters and civilians, injured and displaced hundreds of thousands, and decimated homes and infrastructure. A naval blockade cut off access to fuel, medicine, and food for millions. In addition to this humanitarian catastrophe, the ensuing chaos emboldened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and led the group ISIS to expand there.

Perfect for understanding the political economy, geopolitics and social relations of the region.Prof. Laleh Khalili, University of London, SOAS

Arabia Incognita helps readers understand this tragic misadventure by tracing the Arabian Peninsula’s modern history from Yemen’s strong anti-imperial movement of the 1960s through the present series of conflicts. The majority of the essays focus on Yemen’s colorful and complex internal socio-political dynamics; others draw attention to parallel, often inter-connected disharmonies inside the Gulf’s petro-kingdoms; wider regional upheavals and movements; and America’s deep, vast and very problematic security involvement in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula.


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Yemen at Gulf Research Meeting


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”

new article on Yemeni youth


Tricking Time, Overthrowing a Regime: Reining in the Future in the Yemeni Youth Revolution
by Ross Porter
The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology , Vol. 34, 2016


Based on research at the heart of the 2011 revolution in Yemen, this article explores how a capacity to inhabit the future culminated in a collective act of temporal deception on the part of the revolutionaries. Contrary to the prevalent assumption that the future is something that is worked towards, aspired to, emerging or lying in wait at the end of a distant telos, revolutionary life in Yemen asserts that the future can itself be a way of being, but in the present. Upholding the future involved dramatic acts of selflessness whose value lay not just in where they would lead, but in the acts themselves. This fusion of means and ends, presents and futures, ultimately bred a capacity for endurance that defied the temporal expectations of the regime.

Burrowes on Al-Eryani


Abd al-Karim was one of my two best Yemeni friends (the other being his nephew, Abd al-Ghani), the man who taught me the most of what I know about Yemeni politics, and in my opinion the most important political force in Yemeni politics over the past generation.  He founded and shaped the old Central Planning Organization (CPO) in the mid-1970s, designed the multi-step process that led to the creation of the GPC and the consolidation of the Salih regime in the early 1980s, orchestrated the unification of Yemen and creation of the Republic of Yemen in 1990, negotiating the final border agreement with Saudi Arabia in 2000, and helped engineer the transition from the 30-years-old Salih regime in 2011.  Did anyone do half as much over this 35-year period? May this great Yemeni rest in peace.

Robert Burrowes, University of Washington, emeritus

Dr. Abdulkarim al-Eryani dies


It is with sadness that we at AIYS have learned the news that Dr. Abdulkarim al-Eryani, a guiding force for the creation of AIYS and a constant friend of the institute, passed away on November 8, 2015 while undergoing medical treatment in Germany.  Born in 1935, he went on to receive a doctorate in 1968 at Yale University.  He served in many different offices in the Yemeni government during the periods of several North Yemen presidents and after the unification. I attach below a brief account of his service.  For an account in English, click here.

In honor of Dr. Al-Eryani, AIYS created a special fellowship fund last year for Yemeni scholars.  This fund is only used to support scholars in Yemen for their research in any field.  Those wishing to honor Dr. Al-Eryani’s memory can find information on this fund here.  

We send our condolences to Dr. Al-Eryani’s family and many friends.

الأحد 08 نوفمبر 2015 08:59 مساءً
(عدن الغد) خاص:

توفي الدكتور عبدالكريم الإرياني، رئيس الوزراء اليمني الأسبق.
وقالت مصادر سياسية يمنية ان الدكتور الإرياني توفي الأحد 8 نوفمبر/تشرين الثاني 2015، الذي كان يتلقى العلاج في إحدى مشافي المانيا.
ويعتبر الدكتور الارياني، واحداً من أبرز السياسيين اليمنيين المخضرمين ورجال الدولة الذين تركوا بصمات بارزة في مسيرة اليمن الجمهوري.
ـ ولد عبد الكريم في 20 فبراير 1935 في حصن إريان بمحافظة إب لعائلة امتهنت القضاء، وهو ابن أخ الرئيس الثاني للجمهورية العربية اليمنية القاضي عبد الرحمن الإرياني.
ـ حصل على الشهادة الثانوية عام 1958 من مصر، ثم أكمل دراسته الجامعية في الولايات المتحدة، فأكمل درجة البكالوريوس في الزراعة في جامعة تكساس، ثم حضر الماجستير من جامعة جورجيا والدكتوراة من جامعة ييل بكونيتيكت عام 1968.
ـ تزوج عام 1969.
ـ المناصب:
1968-1972 مدير مشروع زبيد الزراعي.
1972-1974 رئيس هيئة التخطيط المركزية.
1974-1976 وزير التنمية ورئيس هيئة التخطيط المركزية.
1976-1978 وزير التربية والتعليم ورئيس جامعة صنعاء.
1978-1980 مستشار صندوق الكويت للتنمية الاقتصادية العربية.
1980-1983 رئيس الوزراء الجمهورية العربية اليمنية.
1983-1984 رئيس المجلس الأعلى لإعادة إعمار مناطق الزلزال الذي ضرب مناطق الجبال الوسطى في اليمن.
1984-1990 نائب رئيس الوزراء ووزير الخارجية.
1990-1993 وزير الخارجية.
1993-1994 وزير التخطيط.
1994-1997 نائب رئيس الوزراء ووزير الخارجية.
وفي يونيو 1995م عين أمينًا عاماً لحزب المؤتمر الشعبي العام. وفي مايو 1997م عقب الانتخابات البرلمانية أعيد تعيينه نائباً لرئيس الوزراء ووزيرًا للخارجية.
وفي 29 أبريل 1998م وبشكل مفاجئ عين رئيسًا للوزراء للجمهورية اليمنية بالوكالة عقب استقالة الدكتور فرج بن غانم وخدم في هذا المنصب حتى 31 مارس عام 2001م.
في 7 مايو 2012م عينه الرئيس عبدربه منصور هادي مستشارا له.
وفي 18 مارس 2013 م عٌين نائباً لرئيس مؤتمر الحوار الوطني.

Daniel Martin Varisco
President, American Institute for Yemeni Studies

Panel on Yemen in Washington D.C.


Yemen is in the grip of its most severe crisis in years, with a Saudi-led military campaign against the rebel Houthis now in its sixth month. Civilian casualties continue to mount, the internally displaced population grows, and Yemen’s already weak infrastructure teeters on the verge of collapse.

Amidst the chaos and suffering of the ongoing war, what are the prospects for a political solution, and how does Yemen tackle the urgent need for reconciliation and reconstruction in a post-conflict scenario? What will be the immediate priorities, and how quickly can the international community mobilize resources to help stabilize and rebuild Yemen?

The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington is pleased to host a panel discussion on these and other aspects of the challenges that will face Yemen and the international community following the cessation of the ongoing conflict.

For details, click here.