New Book by Kenneth Cline

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Kenneth Cline, who visited Yemen in the 1980s has a new e-book out called Tracking the Queen of Sheba: A Travel Memoir of Yemen.

The author’s account of a journey of exploration he took with a group of archaeologists to one of the most remote and exotic regions of the world, Yemen. In ancient times, Arabia Felix, or “Happy Arabia,” was home to a wealthy and advanced civilization that sent one of its rulers, the Queen of Sheba, on a famous expedition to visit King Solomon, her camels laden with gold and spices. Today, the country is an impoverished backwater, riven by civil war and tribal feuds. In this memoir, the author recounts the trip he took in 1984 to the Wadi al-Jubah, in the far eastern part of Yemen bordering Saudi Arabia’s “Empty Quarter” Desert. The archaeologists were on a quest to discover more about the ancient civilization known as Saba, which was almost certainly the equivalent to Biblical “Sheba.” Come along on the journey as the group struggles to conduct their research among heavily armed tribesman notoriously suspicious of outsiders — to the point where village boys will pursue a lone foreigner with a hail of rocks. And learn too what conclusions the group reached about the power of ancient Saba (Sheba) and the story of its famous queen. Highlighting the contradictions and ambiguities in the existing archaeological data, contrast the very different interpretations reached by two of the most eminent South Arabian scholars of their day, Albert Jamme and Gus Van Beek, regarding the identity and role of the mysterious queen. And learn too how this particular group of archaeologists was directly following in the footsteps of explorer Wendell Phillips, author of Qataban and Sheba, whose legendary 1950-52 excavations in Yemen could have served as the plot for an Indiana Jones movie. Things had calmed down a bit by 1984, but Yemen still remained a place where westerners ventured at their own risk.

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”