Category Archives: History

AIYS in Japan and Qatar


AIYS President Dan Varisco visited Japan last week and gave three talks on the current crisis in Yemen.  The first was at the Institute for Developing Economies in Tokyo on June 3, the second at Tokyo University’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia on June 4 and the third was at the Institute for Energy Economics on June 8. While in Tokyo President Varisco met a number of Japanese scholars who work on Yemen thanks to the efforts of Dr. Hiroshi Sato Kan.

On his return to Doha, he gave a similar presentation at a Gulf Studies Center program at Qatar University on the situation in Yemen on June 11.  The goal of all the talks was to provide the context for the current conflict and draw attention to the massive humanitarian crisis resulting from the recent bombing and internal fighting.  As Ramadhan approaches, we all wish a speedy and decisive diplomatic resolution to the ongoing conflict.

President Varisco is Research Professor and Coordinator of Social Science Research at the Center for Humanities and Social Sciences at Qatar University.

Yemen Antiquities Bombed


Smoke rises from al-Qahira castle, an ancient fortress that was recently taken over by Shiite rebels, as another building on the Saber mountain, in the background, explodes after Saudi-led airstrikes in Taiz city, Yemen, on May 21.  (Abdulnasser Alseddik/AP)

The world may be ignoring the destruction of cultural treasures in Yemen

June 5, Washington Post

In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State’s wanton vandalizing and looting of antiquities has rightfully led to horror around the world. But those sites may not be the only cultural sites in the Middle East facing destruction.

In Yemen, where Houthi rebels are fighting pro-government forces and a Saudi-led coalition, there have been numerous reports of irreplaceable sites being damaged by violence, too, even if they have failed to spark the same outrage.

On Thursday, for example, the Yemen Post tweeted images of the centuries-old al-Qahira castle apparently being hit by an airstrike. The castle was “destroyed,” the local outlet stated.

It is unclear whether the castle has actually been destroyed or what the level of destruction at the site amounts to. The photographs shared by the Yemen Post appear to date back to May.

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Dhamar Regional Museum Destroyed

Dhamar, Yemen Museum Destroyed

The Dhamar Regional Museum in Yemen, the main museum of the Dhamar governorate, was been destroyed in a Saudi airstrike last Thursday. The Museum, built in 2002, is the repository of all work done in the province. Together with the building, it is not clear how much of the collection of pre-Islamic antiquities, including a number of  dedicatory stelae  and also the material produced by the Chicago Oriental Institute’s work from 1978 onwards (see here too) have been lost. Some of the museum’s artefacts were recently digitalised by CASIS an EU-funded project.

Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen in the last 62 days to bring its ally, fugitive president Mansour Hadi, back to power. The airstrikes have killed, at least, 3,912 Yemenis, according to FNA’s independent tally. According to a recent report by Freedom House Foundation, most of the victims of the deadly Al Saud campaign are civilians, including a large number of women and children. Thousands of residential buildings have been destroyed, and hundreds of civil and public facilities were reduced to rubble as a result of the bombardments by Saudi warplanes on the Yemeni cities and towns, the group said.

The city of Dhamar, 100 km to the south of Sana’a, was one of the famous Arabic and Islamic culture and scientific centres in Yemen.


Saudi Warplanes Fully Destroy Dhamar Museum‘, Fars News Tue May 26, 2015
For photos of the destruction, click here.

Yemen through its literature

Yemen through its literature:
A nation besieged

The recent Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen has been reduced to a simplistic narrative of a Sunni-Shia divide driving national conflict – reminiscent of an essentialist “clash of civilizations” trope. This sectarian paradigm attributes all conflict to the notion of cultural boundaries developed over centuries-old divides. Although limited in publication and certainly by translation, Yemeni literature (and lack thereof) functions, on the other hand, as a prism of a nation riven by years of occupation, civil war, corruption, and poverty – issues that far transcend the simplistic sectarian narrative willingly peddled by the media. While the isolated, impoverished nation struggles to negotiate a fraught economic and political terrain, poetry and verse have never ceased to dominate the country’s cultural landscape.

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Rencontres Sabéennes

Dear Colleagues,
We are pleased to announce that the 19th annual meeting Rencontres Sabéennes will be held at the University of Pisa from Thursday 18 June to Saturday 20 June 2015. The topic of Rencontres Sabéennes 19 is identity. In line with this, submissions dealing with aspects related to the homogeneity and diversity of the languages and cultures of pre-Islamic South Arabia and its neighbouring civilizations are very welcomed. We also encourage the submission of joint papers, to foster the exploration of the topics from different perspectives (historical, epigraphic, archaeological etc.).

Besides, this year too Rencontres Sabéennes offers a venue for the presentation of the latest academic researches and the fieldwork projects that are currently underway.  We will also make every effort to prepare the publication of the conference proceedings.

Please submit the abstract (preferably in English and not exceeding 300 words) via EasyChair system [] by March 22nd 2015. In order to establish the program on time, we are sorry but we will not be able to consider late submissions.  Feel also free to extend the invitation for poster submission to your team’s younger researchers and students.

Rencontres Sabéennes 19 will be hosted at the Aula Magna of the department of “Filologia, Letteratura e Linguistica” of the University of Pisa, piazza Torricelli 2.  Registration is already open. Please register at Eventbrite [] if you wish to attend the conference as an auditor.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Alessia Prioletta, Alexia Pavan
Annamaria de Santis
Meeting planning and communication

Yemeni Novels


Political crisis and Yemen’s literary resurgence

by Fareed Al-Homaid, Yemen Times, March 23, 2015

“I have sold hundreds of novels since last June—not world literature masterpieces, but ones written by Yemeni authors. Do you believe that?!” said Abduljabar Al-Attoani, owner of Abu Thaar Bookstore in the capital Sana’a.

Despite ongoing political and economic turmoil, national literature saw an unexpected surge in 2014. Twenty novels were published by Yemeni authors last year, and while that figure may seem insignificant in a regional or global context, it is considerably more than the eight books produced the previous year. Indeed, it is about ten percent of all the books ever published by Yemeni writers, and considering the hardships facing the country today it is an extraordinary achievement.

The Yemeni novel in history

Ahmed Al-Sakkaf’s Qarot’s Girl, published in 1927, is considered modern Yemen’s first work of fiction. Since then, a mere two-hundred books by Yemeni writers are thought to have been published. Until the publication of Mohammed Abdulwali’s celebrated work They Die Strangers in 1971, marking the beginning of popular literature in Yemen, just eight books were produced.

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Banian from Mocha


The New York Public Library has a website reproducing images from its collection.  Here is one of a Banian merchant in Mocha from 1787.  The source is from Costumes civils actuels de tous les peuples connus, accompagnés d’une notice historique sur leurs costumes, moeurs, religions, etc. (Paris : Pavard, 1787-1788) Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Jacques (1757-1810),  author.

Destroying Yemen’s Islamic Past

The shrine of Sufyan ibn Abdullah in al-Hawta

The madness goes on.  It is reported that 30 al-Qaeda gunmen on 30 motorcycles blew up the 800 year old shrine of the Sufi  scholar Sufyan ibn Abdullah.  Not only did they demolish this famous shrine but also destroyed graves and removed the bones of the dead.  Sacrilege knows no bounds.

The rubble that was the shrine.

جماعه مسلحة تهدم اهم معلم إسلامي بحوطة لحج عمره ثمان مائة سنة
عدن الحدث
٢٨ يناير

اقدمت عناصر مسلحة على هدم اهم معلم إسلامي بمدينة الحوطة بمحافظة لحج يضم ضريح ومسجد العالم الجليل سفيان بن عبدالله ونبش قبره الذي مضى عليه أكثر من 800 عام وتسوية القبة وملحقاتها بالأرض.

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