Eryani


Brief Biography of Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Eryani

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Dr. Abdulkarim, then and now

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From a renowned Yemeni qadi family and the nephew of the Yemen Arab Republic’s only civilian head of state, Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Eryani has devoted nearly half a century to the development of Yemen and its politics.  Switching late in his youth from traditional qadi training, he received his modern secondary education in Aden and Cairo in the 1950s.  As one of the first four Yemenis chosen for training in the U.S.’s Point IV aid program, he began his 10-year educational odyssey in the U.S. in 1958, one that took him to universities in Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia and Connecticut.

Dr. Abdulkarim returned to the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in 1967 with a Ph.D. in biology from Yale University.  In rapid succession, he was founding director of the Wadi Zabid project from 1968 to1972, founding chairman of the Central Planning Organization, Minister of Development from 1973 to 1976, Minister of Education and president of Sanaa University from 1976 to 1978.  He is arguably the best educated, ablest, and most influential of the YAR's first-generation modernists.  To many foreigners and Yemenis alike, he has been Yemen's "Mr. Development," the initiator of development planning in the YAR and a chief designer of the exploitation of its oil resources.

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Dr. Abdulkarim at an opening ceremony for the Minsitty of Electricity and Water


Dr. Abdulkarim was a major benefactor in the creation of AIYS in 1978.  He has long supported the research efforts sponsored by AIYS and has given invaluable support to its presence in Yemen during the most difficult times.


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Dr. Abdulkarim with Dr. Abdul Aziz al-Maqalih and Robert Burrowes

Despite dissembling claims in the 1970s to being a nonpolitical technocrat, Dr. Abdulkarim proved to be a keen student of politics and unafraid of hard, fierce political combat.  He was prime minister twice, from 1980 to1983 and 1998 to 2001, and deputy prime minister and foreign minister nearly continuously from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.

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Dr. Abdulkarim at one of many ribbon-cutting ceremonies


Dr Abdulkarim was chief architect of the multi-staged process in the early 1980s that led to the National Pact and then the creation of the GPC, the package of ideas and the political organization needed so badly by the still-fragile Salih regime.   In addition, he was an architect of the YAR's hard line and then improved relations with the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the 1980s; thereafter, he was an architect—perhaps the chief architect—of the unification of the two Yemens in 1990.   In 1994, he played  a leading political roles in preventing the undoing of the new Republic of Yemen during the War of Secession and in the protracted negotiations leading in 2000 to a “final and permanent” border agreement with Saudi Arabia, the Jidda Agreement.

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Dr. Abdulkarim in 1992



In 2011, the coming of the Arab Spring dramatically increased the already growing pressure for political reform and/or regime change in Yemen.   At this time, Dr. Abdulkarim played a major role in the design and execution of the process that led to President Salih’s resignation and the still ongoing transition process built around the National Dialogue Initiative.

prepared by Dr. Robert Burrowes, author of Historical Dictionary of Yemen
(Scarecrow Press; 2nd Edition edition, 2009)

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