History of Yemen
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|History of Yemen|
Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Its relatively fertile land and adequate rainfall in a moister climate helped sustain a stable population, a feature recognized by the ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy, who described Yemen as Eudaimon Arabia (better known in its Latin translation, Arabia Felix) meaning "fortunate Arabia" or Happy Arabia.
The nomadic Semites from the Yemeni desert regions (Rub' al Khali and Sayhad) migrated to the North, settling Akkad, later penetrating Mesopotamia, eventually conquering Sumer by 2300 BCE, and assimilating the Amorites of Syria.
Some scholars[who?] believe that Yemen remains the only region in the world that is exclusively Semitic, meaning that Yemen historically did not have any non–Semitic-speaking people. Yemeni Semites derived their Musnad script by the 12th to 8th centuries BCE, which explains why most historians date all of the ancient Yemeni kingdoms to the 12th to 8th centuries BCE.
Between the 12th century BCE and the 6th century CE, it was dominated by six successive civilizations which rivaled each other, or were allied with each other and controlled the lucrative spice trade: Ma'in, Qataban, Hadhramaut, Awsan, Saba and Himyar. Islam arrived in 630 CE, and Yemen became part of the Muslim realm.
- 1 Ancient history
- 2 Middle Ages
- 3 Modern history
- 4 Two states
- 5 Unification
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
With its long sea border between early civilizations, Yemen has long existed at a crossroads of cultures with a strategic location in terms of trade on the west of the Arabian Peninsula. Large settlements for their era existed in the mountains of northern Yemen as early as 5000 BC. Little is known about ancient Yemen and how exactly it transitioned from nascent Bronze Age civilizations to more trade-focussed caravan kingdoms. This may be due to social or official discouragement of research into pre-Islamic civilizations in Arabia.
The Sabaean Kingdom came into existence from at least the eleventh century BC. There were four major kingdoms or tribal confederations in South Arabia: Saba, Hadramout, Qataban and Ma'in. Saba is believed to be biblical Sheba and was the most prominent federation. The Sabaean rulers adopted the title Mukarrib generally thought to mean "unifier", or a "priest-king". The role of the Mukarrib was to bring the various tribes under the kingdom and preside over them all. The Sabaens built the Great Dam of Marib around 940 BC. The dam was built to withstand the seasonal flash floods surging down the valley.
Between 700 and 680 BC, the Kingdom of Awsan dominated Aden and its surroundings. Sabaean Mukarrib Karib'il Watar I changed his ruling title to that of a king, and conquered the entire realm of Awsan, expanding Sabaean rule and territory to include much of South Arabia. Lack of water in the Arabian Peninsula prevented the Sabaeans from unifying the entire peninsula. Instead, they established various colonies to control trade routes. Evidence of Sabaean influence is found in northern Ethiopia, where the South Arabian alphabet religion and pantheon, and the South Arabian style of art and architecture were introduced. The Sabaean created a sense of identity through their religion. They worshipped El-Maqah and believed themselves to be his children. For centuries, the Sabaeans controlled outbound trade across the Bab-el-Mandeb, a strait separating the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean.
By the 3rd century BC, Qataban, Hadramout and Ma'in became independent from Saba and established themselves in the Yemeni arena. Minaean rule stretched as far as Dedan, with their capital at Baraqish. The Sabaeans regained their control over Ma'in after the collapse of Qataban in 50 BCE. By the time of the Roman expedition to Arabia Felix in 25 BC, the Sabaeans were once again the dominating power in Southern Arabia. Aelius Gallus was ordered to lead a military campaign to establish Roman dominance over the Sabaeans. The Romans had a vague and contradictory geographical knowledge about Arabia Felix or Yemen. The Roman army of ten thousand men was annihilated before Marib. Strabo's close relationship with Aelius Gallus led him to attempt to justify his friend's defeat in his writings. It took the Romans six months to reach Marib and sixty days to return to Egypt. The Romans blamed their Nabataean guide and executed him for treachery. No direct mention in Sabaean inscriptions of the Roman expedition has yet been found.
After the Roman expedition – perhaps earlier – the country fell into chaos and two clans, namely Hamdan and Himyar, claimed kingship, assuming the title King of Sheba and Dhu Raydan. Dhu Raydan (i.e. Himyarites) allied themselves with Aksum in Ethiopia against the Sabaeans. The chief of Bakil and king of Saba and Dhu Raydan, El-sharah Yahdub, launched successful campaigns against the Himyarites and Habashat (i.e. Aksum), El-sharah took proud of his campaigns and added the title Yahdub to his name, which means "suppressor"; he used to kill his enemies by cutting them to pieces. Sana'a came into prominence during his reign as he built the Ghumdan Palace to be his place of residence.
The Himyarite annexed Sana'a from Hamdan in around 100 AD. Hashdi tribesmen rebelled against them, however, and regained Sana'a in around 180 AD. It was not until 275 AD that Shammar Yahri'sh conquered Hadramout and Najran and Tihama, thus unifying Yemen and consolidating Himyarite rule. The Himyarites rejected polytheism and adhered to a consensual form of monotheism called Rahmanism. In 354 AD, Roman Emperor Constantius II sent an embassy headed by Theophilos the Indian to convert the Himyarites to Christianity. According to Philostorgius, the mission was resisted by local Jews. Several inscriptions have been found in Hebrew and Sabaean praising the ruling house in Jewish terms for helping and empowering the People of Israel.
According to Islamic traditions, King As'ad The Perfect mounted a military expedition to support the Jews of Yathrib. Abu Karib As'ad, as known from the inscriptions, led a military campaign to central Arabia or Najd to support the vassal Kingdom of Kindah against the Lakhmids. However, no direct reference to Judaism or Yathrib was discovered from his lengthy reign. Abu Kariba died in 445 AD having reigned for almost 50 years. By 515 AD, Himyar became increasingly divided along religious lines and a bitter conflict between different factions paved the way for an Aksumite intervention. The last Himyarite king Ma'adikarib Ya'fur was supported by Aksum against his Jewish rivals. Ma'adikarib was Christian and launched a campaign against the Lakhmids in Southern Iraq, with the support of other Arab allies of Byzantium. The Lakhmids were a Bulwark of Persia, which was intolerant to a proselytizing religion like Christianity.
After the death of Ma'adikarib Ya'fur in around 521 AD, a Himyarite Jewish warlord named Yousef Asar Yathar rose to power. His honorary title Yathar means "to avenge". Yemenite Christians, aided by Aksum and Byzantium, systematically persecuted Jews and burned down several synagogues across the land. Yousef avenged his people with great cruelty. He marched toward the port city of Mocha killing 14,000 and capturing 11,000. Then he settled a camp in Bab-el-Mandeb to prevent aid flowing from Aksum. At the same time, Yousef sent an army under the command of another Jewish warlord, Sharahil Yaqbul, to Najran. Sharahil had reinforcements from the Bedouins of the Kindah and Madh'hij tribes, eventually wiping out the Christian community in Najran. Yousef or Dhu Nuwas (The one with sidelocks) as known in Arabic literature, believed that Christians in Yemen were a fifth column. Christian sources portray Dhu Nuwas (Yousef Asar) as a Jewish zealot, while Islamic traditions say that he threw 20,000 Christians into pits filled with flaming oil. This history, however, is shrouded in legend. Dhu Nuwas left two inscriptions, neither of them making any reference to fiery pits. Byzantium had to act or lose all credibility as protector of eastern Christianity. It is reported that Byzantium Emperor Justin I sent a letter to the Aksumite King Kaleb, pressuring him to "attack the abominable Hebrew". A tripartite military alliance of Byzantine, Aksumite and Arab Christians successfully defeated Yousef around 525–527 AD and a client Christian king was installed on the Himyarite throne.
Esimiphaios was a local Christian lord, mentioned in an inscription celebrating the burning of an ancient Sabaean palace in Marib to build a church on its ruins. Three new churches were built in Najran alone. Many tribes did not recognize Esimiphaios's authority. Esimiphaios was displaced in 531 by a warrior named Abraha, who refused to leave Yemen and declared himself an independent king of Himyar. Emperor Justinian I sent an embassy to Yemen. He wanted the officially Christian Himyarites to use their influence on the tribes in inner Arabia to launch military operations against Persia. Justinian I bestowed the dignity of king upon the Arab sheikhs of Kindah and Ghassan in central and north Arabia. From early on, Roman and Byzantine policy was to develop close links with the powers of the coast of the Red Sea. They were successful in converting Aksum and influencing their culture. The results with regard to Yemen were rather disappointing.
A Kendite prince called Yazid bin Kabshat rebelled against Abraha and his Arab Christian allies. A truce was reached once The Great Dam of Marib had suffered a breach. Abraha died around 555–565; no reliable sources regarding his death are available. The Sasanid empire annexed Aden around 570 AD. Under their rule, most of Yemen enjoyed great autonomy except for Aden and Sana'a. This era marked the collapse of ancient South Arabian civilization, since the greater part of the country was under several independent clans until the arrival of Islam in 630 AD.
Advent of Islam and the three Dynasties
Mohammed sent his cousin Ali to Sana'a and its surroundings around 630 AD. At the time, Yemen was the most advanced region in Arabia. The Banu Hamdan confederation were among the first to accept Islam. Mohammed sent Muadh ibn Jabal as well to Al-Janad in present day Taiz, and dispatched letters to various tribal leaders. The reason behind this was the division among the tribes and the absence of a strong central authority in Yemen during the days of the prophet. Major tribes, including Himyar, sent delegations to Medina during the Year of delegations around 630–631 AD. Several Yemenis accepted Islam before the year 630, such as Ammar ibn Yasir, Al-Ala'a Al-Hadrami, Miqdad ibn Aswad, Abu Musa Ashaari and Sharhabeel ibn Hasana. A man named 'Abhala ibn Ka'ab Al-Ansi expelled the remaining Persians and claimed to be a prophet of Rahman. He was assassinated by a Yemeni of Persian origin called Fayruz al-Daylami. Christians, who were mainly staying in Najran along with Jews, agreed to pay Jizya, although some Jews converted to Islam, such as Wahb ibn Munabbih and Ka'ab al-Ahbar.
The country was stable during the Rashidun Caliphate. Yemeni tribes played a pivotal role in the Islamic conquests of Egypt, Iraq, Persia the Levant, Anatolia, North Africa, Sicily and Andalusia. Yemeni tribes that settled in Syria, contributed significantly to the solidification of Umayyad rule, especially during the reign of Marwan I. Powerful Yemenite tribes like Kindah were on his side during the Battle of Marj Rahit. Several emirates led by people of Yemeni descent were established in North Africa and Andalusia. Effective control over entire Yemen was not achieved by the Umayyad Caliphate. Imam Abdullah ibn Yahya Al-Kindi was elected in 745 AD to lead the Ibāḍī movement in Hadramawt and Oman. He expelled the Umayyad governor from Sana'a and captured Mecca and Medina in 746 AD. Al-Kindi, known by his nickname Talib al-Haq (Seeker of truth), established the first Ibadi state in the history of Islam but was killed in Taif around 749 AD.
Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Ziyad founded the Ziyadid dynasty in Tihama around 818 AD; the state stretched from Haly (In present day Saudi Arabia) to Aden. They nominally recognized the Abbasid Caliphate but were in fact ruling independently from their capital in Zabid. The history of this dynasty is obscure; they never exercised control over the highlands and Hadramawt, and did not control more than a coastal strip of the Yemen (Tihama) bordering the Red Sea. A Himyarite clan called the Yufirids established their rule over the highlands from Saada to Taiz, while Hadramawt was an Ibadi stronghold and rejected all allegiance to the Abbasids in Baghdad. By virtue of its location, the Ziyadid dynasty of Zabid developed a special relationship with Abyssinia. The chief of the Dahlak islands exported slaves as well as amber and leopard hides to the then ruler of Yemen.
The first Zaidi imam, Yahya ibn al-Husayn, arrived to Yemen in 893 AD. He was the founder of the Zaidi imamate in 897. He was a religious cleric and judge who was invited to come to Saada from Medina to arbitrate tribal disputes. Imam Yahya persuaded local tribesmen to follow his teachings. The sect slowly spread across the highlands, as the tribes of Hashid and Bakil, later known as the twin wings of the imamate, accepted his authority. Yahya established his influence in Saada and Najran; he also tried to capture Sana'a from the Yufirids in 901 AD but failed miserably. In 904, the Qarmatians invaded Sana'a. The Yufirid emir As'ad ibn Ibrahim retreated to Al-Jawf, and between 904 and 913, Sana'a was conquered no less than 20 times by Qarmatians and Yufirids. As'ad ibn Ibrahim regained Sana'a in 915. The country was in turmoil as Sana'a became a battlefield for the three dynasties as well as independent tribes.
The Yufirid emir Abdullah ibn Qahtan attacked and burned Zabid in 989, severely weakening the Ziyadid dynasty. The Ziyadid monarchs lost effective power after 989, or even earlier than that. Meanwhile, a succession of slaves held power in Zabid and continued to govern in the name of their masters eventually establishing their own dynasty around 1022 or 1050 according to different sources. Although they were recognized by the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, they ruled no more than Zabid and four districts to its north. The rise of the Ismaili Shia Sulayhid dynasty in the Yemeni highlands reduced their history to a series of intrigues.
The Sulayhid dynasty was founded in the northern highlands around 1040. at the time, Yemen was ruled by different local dynasties. In 1060, Ali ibn Mohammed Al-Sulayhi conquered Zabid and killed its ruler Al-Najah, founder of the Najahid dynasty. His sons were forced to flee to Dahlak. Hadramawt fell into Sulayhid hands after their capture of Aden in 1162. By 1063, Ali had subjugated Greater Yemen. He then marched toward Hejaz and occupied Makkah. Ali was married to Asma bint Shihab, who governed Yemen with her husband. The Khutba during Friday prayers was proclaimed in her husband's and her name. No other Arab woman had this honor since the advent of Islam.
Ali al-Sulayhi was killed by Najah's sons on his way to Mecca in 1084. His son Ahmed Al-Mukarram led an army to Zabid and killed 8,000 of its inhabitants. He later installed the Zurayids to govern Aden. al-Mukarram, who had been afflicted with facial paralysis resulting from war injuries, retired in 1087 and handed over power to his wife Arwa al-Sulayhi. Queen Arwa moved the seat of the Sulayhid dynasty from Sana'a to Jibla, a small town in central Yemen near Ibb. Jibla was strategically near the Sulayhid dynasty source of wealth, the agricultural central highlands. It was also within easy reach of the southern portion of the country, especially Aden. She sent Ismaili missionaries to India where a significant Ismail community was formed that exists to this day. Queen Arwa continued to rule securely until her death in 1138.
Arwa al-Sulayhi is still remembered as a great and much loved sovereign, as attested in Yemeni historiography, literature, and popular lore, where she is referred to as Balqis al-sughra , that is "the junior queen of Sheba". Although the Sulayhids were Ismaili, they never tried to impose their beliefs on the public. Shortly after queen Arwa's death, the country was split between five competing petty dynasties along religious lines. The Ayyubid dynasty overthrew the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt. A few years after their rise to power, Saladin dispatched his brother Turan Shah to conquer Yemen in 1174.
Turan Shah conquered Zabid from the Mahdids in May 1174, then marched toward Aden in June and captured it from the Zurayids. The Hamdanid sultans of Sana'a resisted the Ayyubid in 1175 and it was not until 1189 that the Ayyubids managed to definitely secure Sana'a. The Ayyubid rule was stable in southern and central Yemen where they succeeded in eliminating the mini-states of that region, while Ismaili and Zaidi tribesmen continued to hold out in a number of fortresses. The Ayyubids failed to capture the Zaydis stronghold in northern Yemen. In 1191, Zaydis of Shibam Kawkaban rebelled and killed 700 Ayyubid soldiers. Imam Abdullah bin Hamza proclaimed the imamate in 1197 and fought al-Mu'izz Ismail, the Ayyubid Sultan of Yemen. Imam Abdullah was defeated at first but was able to conquer Sana'a and Dhamar in 1198 al-Mu'izz Ismail was assassinated in 1202 Abdullah bin Hamza carried on the struggle against the Ayyubid until his death in 1217. After his demise, the Zaidi community was split between two rival imams. The Zaydis were dispersed and a truce was signed with the Ayyubid in 1219. The Ayyubid army was defeated in Dhamar in 1226. Ayyubid Sultan Mas'ud Yusuf left for Mecca in 1228 never to return. Other sources suggest that he was forced to leave for Egypt instead in 1123.
The Rasulid Dynasty was established in 1229 by Umar ibn Rasul. Umar ibn Rasul was appointed deputy governor by the Ayyubids in 1223. When the last Ayyubid ruler left Yemen in 1229, Umar stayed in the country as caretaker. He subsequently declared himself an independent king by assuming the title al-Malik Al-Mansur (the king assisted by Allah). Umar established the Rasulid dynasty on a firm foundation and expanded its territory to include the area from Dhofar to Mecca Umar first established himself at Zabid, then moved into the mountainous interior, taking the important highland centre Sana'a. However, the Rasulid capitals were Zabid and Ta'izz. He was assassinated by his nephew in 1249. Omar's son Yousef defeated the faction led by his father assassins and crushed several counter-attacks by the Zaydi imams who still held on in the northern highland. It was mainly because of the victories which he scored over his rivals that he assumed the honorific title al-Muzaffar (the victorious). After the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258, al-Muzaffar Yusuf I appropriated the title of caliph. He chose The city of Ta'izz to became the political capital of the kingdom because of its strategic location and proximity to Aden. al-Muzaffar Yusuf I died in 1296 having reigned for 47 years. When the news of his death reached the Zaydi imam Al-Mutawakkil al-Mutahhar bin Yahya he commented by saying:
The greatest king of Yemen, the Muawiyah of the time, has died. His pens used to break our lances and swords to pieces
The Rasulid state nurtured Yemen's commercial links with India and the Far East. they profited greatly by the Red Sea transit trade via Aden and Zabid. The economy also boomed due to the agricultural development programs instituted by the kings who promoted massive cultivation of palms. It was during this period that coffee became a lucrative cash crop in Yemen. The Rasulid kings enjoyed the support of the population of Tihama and southern Yemen while they had to buy the loyalty of Yemen's restive northern highland tribes. The Rasulid sultans built numerous Madrasas in order to solidify the Shafi'i school of thought which is still the dominant school of jurisprudence amongst Yemenis today. Under their rule, Ta'izz and Zabid became major international centers of Islamic learning. The Kings themselves were learned men in their own right who not only had important libraries but who also wrote treatises on a wide array of subjects, ranging from astrology and medicine to agriculture and genealogy.
The dynasty is regarded as the greatest native Yemeni state since the fall of pre-Islamic Himyarite Kingdom. They were, of course, of Turkic descent. They claimed an ancient Yemenite origin to justify their rule. The Rasulids were not the first dynasty to create a fictitious genealogy for political purposes, nor were they doing anything out of the ordinary in the tribal context of Arabia. By claiming descent from a solid Yemenite tribe, the Rasulid brought Yemen to a vital sense of unity in an otherwise chaotic regional milieu. They had a difficult relationship with the Mamluks of Egypt because the latter considered them a vassal state. Their competition centered over the Hejaz and the right to provide kiswa of the Ka'aba in Mecca. The dynasty became increasingly threatened by disgruntled family members over the problem of succession, combined by periodic tribal revolts, as they were locked in a war of attrition with the Zaydi imams in the northern highlands. During the last twelve years of Rasulid rule, the country was torn between several contenders for the kingdom. The weakening of the Rasulid provided an opportunity for the Banu Taher clan to take over and establish themselves as the new rulers of Yemen in 1454 AD.
The Tahirids were a local clan based in Rada'a. While they were not as impressive as their predecessors, they were still keen builders. They built schools, mosques and irrigation channels as well as water cisterns and bridges in Zabid and Aden, Rada'a, and Juban. Their best-known monument is the Amiriya Madrasa in Rada' which was built in 1504. The Tahiride were too weak either to contain the Zaydi Imams or to defend themselves against foreign attacks. The Mamluks of Egypt tried to attach Yemen to Egypt and the Portuguese led by Afonso de Albuquerque, occupied Socotra and made an unsuccessful attack on Aden in 1513. The Portuguese posed an immediate threat to the Indian ocean trade; the Mamluks of Egypt therefore sent an army under the command of Hussein Al-Kurdi to fight the intruders. The Mamluk sultan of Egypt sailed to Zabid in 1515 and begun diplomatic talks with Tahiride Sultan 'Amir bin Abdulwahab for money that would be needed for jihad against the Portuguese. Instead of confronting the Portuguese, the Mamluks, who were running out of food and water, landed their fleet on the Yemen coastline and started to harass Tihama villagers for what they needed. Realizing how rich the Tahiride realm was, they decided to conquer it. The Mamluk army with the support of forces loyal to Zaydi Imam Al-Mutawakkil Yahya Sharaf ad-Din, conquered the entire realm of the Tahiride but failed to capture Aden in 1517. The Mamluk victory turned out to be short-lived. The Ottoman Empire conquered Egypt, hanging the last Mamluk Sultan in Cairo. It was not until 1538 that the Ottomans decided to conquer Yemen. The Zaydi Highland tribes emerged as national heroes by offering a stiff, vigorous resistance to the Turkish occupation.
The Zaydis and Ottomans
The Ottomans had two fundamental interests to safeguard in Yemen: The Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the trade route with India in spices and textiles, both of which were threatened and the latter virtually eclipsed by the arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea in the early part of the 16th century. Hadım Suleiman Pasha, The Ottoman governor of Egypt, was ordered to command a fleet of 90 ships to conquer Yemen. The country was in a state of incessant anarchy and discord as Hadım Suleiman Pasha described it by saying:
Yemen is a land with no lord, an empty province. It would be not only possible but easy to capture, and should it be captured, it would be master of the lands of India and send every year a great amount of gold and jewels to Constantinople.
Imam al-Mutawakkil Yahya Sharaf ad-Din ruled over the northern highlands including Sana'a while Aden was held by the last Tahiride Sultan 'Amir ibn Dauod. Hadım Suleiman Pasha stormed Aden in 1538, killing its ruler and extended Ottoman's authority to include Zabid in 1539 and eventually Tihama in its entirety. Zabid became the administrative headquarters of Yemen Eyalet. The Ottoman governors did not exercise much control over the highlands, they held sway mainly in the southern coastal region, particularly around Zabid, Mocha and Aden. Out of 80,000 soldiers sent to Yemen from Egypt between 1539 – 1547, only 7,000 survived. The Ottoman accountant-general in Egypt remarks:
We have seen no foundry like Yemen for our soldiers. Each time we have sent an expeditionary force there, it has melted away like salt dissolved in water.
The Ottoman sent yet another expeditionary force to Zabid in 1547 while Imam al-Mutawakkil Yahya Sharaf ad-Din was ruling the highlands independently. Imam al-Mutawakkil Yahya chose his son Ali to succeed him, a decision that infuriated his other son al-Mutahhar ibn Yahya. Al-Mutahhar was lame and therefore not qualified for the Imamate. He urged Oais Pasha, the Ottoman colonial governor in Zabid, to attack his father. Indeed Ottoman troops supported by tribal forces loyal to Imam al-Mutahhar stormed Ta'izz and marched north toward Sana'a in August 1547. The Turks officially made Imam al-Mutahhar a Sanjak-bey with authority over 'Amran. Imam al-Mutahhar assassinated the Ottoman colonial governor and recaptured Sana'a but the Ottomans led by Özdemir Pasha, forced al-Mutahhar to retreat to his fortress in Thula. Özdemir Pasha effectively put Yemen under Ottoman rule between 1552 and 1560, he garrisoned the main cities. built new fortresses and rendered secure the main routes. Özdemir died in Sana'a in 1561 to be succeeded by Mahmud Pasha.
Mahmud Pasha was described by other Ottoman officials as corrupt and unscrupulous governor, he used his authority to take over a number of castles some of which belonged to the former Rasulid Kings. Mahmud Pasha killed a Sunni scholar from Ibb. The Ottoman historian claimed that this incident was celebrated by the Zaydi Shia community in the northern highlands. Disregarding the delicate balance of power in Yemen by acting tactlessly, he alienated different groups within Yemeni society, causing them to forget their rivalries and unite against the Turks. Mahmud Pasha was displaced by Ridvan Pasha in 1564. By 1565, Yemen was split into two provinces: the highlands under the command of Ridvan Pasha and Tihama under Murad Pasha. Imam al-Mutahhar launched a propaganda campaign in which he claimed contact with prophet Mohammed in a dream advising him to wage jihad against the Ottomans. Al-Mutahhar led the tribes to capture Sana'a from Ridvan Pasha in 1567. When Murad tried to relieve Sana'a, highland tribesmen ambushed his unit and slaughtered everyone of them. Over 80 battles were fought, the last decisive encounter took place in Dhamar around 1568 in which Murad Pasha was beheaded and had his head sent to al-Mutahhar in Sana'a. By 1568, only Zabid remained under the possession of the Turks.
Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Syria, was ordered by Selim II to suppress the Yemeni rebels, the Turkish army in Egypt was reluctant to go to Yemen however. Mustafa Pasha sent a letter with two Turkish shawishes hoping to persuade al-Mutahhar to give an apology and say that he did not promote any act of aggression against the Ottoman army, and claim that the ignorant Arabians according to the Turks, acted on their own. Imam al-Mutahhar refused the Ottoman offer. Mustafa Pasha sent an expeditionary force under the command of Uthman Pasha, the expeditionary force was defeated with great casualties. Sultan Selim II was infuriated by Mustafa's hesitation to go Yemen, he executed a number of sanjak-beys in Egypt and ordered Sinan Pasha to lead the entire Turkish army in Egypt to reconquer Yemen. Sinan Pasha was a prominent Ottoman General of Albanian origin. He reconquered Aden, Ta'izz, Ibb and besieged Shibam Kawkaban in 1770 for 7 months, the siege was lifted once a truce was reached. Imam al-Mutahhar was pushed back but could not be entirely overcome. After al-Mutahhar's demise in 1572, the Zaydi community was not united under an imam; the Turks took advantage of their disparity and conquered Sana'a, Sa'dah and Najran in 1583. Imam al-Nasir Hassan was arrested in 1585 and exiled to Constantinople, thereby putting an end to the Yemeni rebellion.
The Zaydi tribesmen in the northern highlands particularly those of Hashid and Bakil, were ever the Turkish bugbear in entire Arabia. The Ottomans who justified their presence in Yemen as a triumph for Islam, accused the Zaydis of being infidels. Hassan Pasha was appointed governor of Yemen and enjoyed a period of relative peace from 1585 to 1597. Pupils of al-Mansur al-Qasim suggested him to claim the immamate and fight the Turks, he declined at first but the promotion of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence at the expense of Zaydi Islam infuriated al-Mansur al-Qasim. He proclaimed the Imamate in September 1597, which was the same year the Ottoman authorities inaugurated al-Bakiriyya Mosque. By 1608, Imam al-Mansur (the victorious) regained control over the highlands and signed a truce for 10 years with the Ottomans. Imam al-Mansur al-Qasim died in 1620. His son Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad succeeded him and confirmed the truce with the Ottomans. In 1627, the Ottomans lost Aden and Lahej. 'Abdin Pasha was ordered to suppress the rebels but failed and had to retreat to Mocha. Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad expelled the Ottomans from Sana'a in 1628, only Zabid and Mocha remained under Ottoman possession. Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad captured Zabid in 1634 and allowed the Ottomans to leave Mocha peacefully. The reason behind Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad's success was the possession of firearms by the tribes and their unity behind him.
In 1632, Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad sent an expeditionary force of 1000 men to conquer Mecca. The army entered the city in triumph and killed its governor. The Ottomans were not ready to lose Mecca after Yemen, so they sent an army from Egypt to fight the Yemenites. Seeing that the Turkish army was too numerous to overcome, the Yemeni army retreated to a valley outside Mecca. Ottoman troops attacked the Yemenis by hiding at the wells that supplied them with water. This plan proceeded successfully, causing the Yemenis over 200 casualties, most from thirst. The tribesmen eventually surrendered and returned to Yemen. Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad died in 1644. He was succeeded by Al-Mutawakkil Isma'il, another son of al-Mansur al-Qasim, who conquered Yemen in its entirety, from Asir in the north to Dhofar in the east. During his reign, and during the reign of his successor, Al-Mahdi Ahmad (1676–1681),the Imamate implemented some of the harshest discriminatory laws (Ar. ghiyar) against the Jews of Yemen, which culminated in the expulsion of all Jews (Exile of Mawza) to a hot and arid region in the Tihama coastal plain. The Qasimid state was the strongest Zaydi state to ever exist.
During that period, Yemen was the sole Coffee producer in the world. The country established diplomatic relations with the Safavid dynasty of Persia, Ottomans of Hejaz, Mughal Empire in India and Ethiopia as well. Fasilides of Ethiopia sent three diplomatic missions to Yemen, but the relations did not develop into political alliance as Fasilides had hoped, due to the rise of powerful feudalists in his country. In the first half of the 18th century, the Europeans broke Yemen's monopoly on coffee by smuggling coffee trees and cultivating them in their own colonies in the East Indies, East Africa, the West Indies and Latin America. The imammate did not follow a cohesive mechanism for succession, and family quarrels and tribal insubordination led to the political decline of the Qasimi dynasty in the 18th century. In 1728 or 1731 the chief representative of Lahej declared himself an independent Sultan in defiance of the Qasimid Dynasty and conquered Aden thus establishing the Sultanate of Lahej. The rising power of the fervently Islamist Wahhabi movement on the Arabian Peninsula cost the Zaidi state its coastal possessions after 1803. The imam was able to regain them temporarily in 1818, but new intervention by the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt in 1833 again wrested the coast from the ruler in Sana'a. After 1835 the imamate changed hands with great frequency and some imams were assassinated. After 1849 the Zaidi polity descended into chaos that lasted for decades.
Great Britain and the Nine Regions
The British were looking for a coal depot to service their steamers en route to India. It took 700 tons of coal for a round-trip from Suez to Bombay. East India Company officials decided on Aden. The British Empire tried to reach an agreement with the Zaydi imam of Sana'a permitting them a foothold in Mocha; and when unable to secure their position, they extracted a similar agreement from the Sultan of Lahej, enabling them to consolidate a position in Aden. An incident played into British hands when, while passing Aden for trading purposes, one of their sailing ships sank and Arab tribesmen boarded it and plundered its contents. The British India government dispatched a warship under the command of Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines to demand compensation.
Haines bombarded Aden from his warship in January 1839. The ruler of Lahej, who was in Aden at the time, ordered his guards to defend the port, but they failed in the face of overwhelming military and naval power. The British managed to occupy Aden and agreed to compensate the sultan with an annual payment of 6000 riyals. The British evicted the Sultan of Lahej from Aden and forced him to accept their "protection". In November 1839, 5000 tribesmen tried to retake the town but were repulsed and 200 were killed. The British realized that Aden's prosperity depended on their relations with the neighboring tribes, which required that they rest on a firm and satisfactory basis.
The British government concluded "protection and friendship" treaties with nine tribes surrounding Aden, whereas they would remain independent from British interference in their affairs as long as they do not conclude treaties with foreigners (non-Arab colonial powers). Aden was declared a free zone in 1850. With emigrants from India, East Africa and Southeast Asia, Aden grew into a "world city". in 1850, only 980 Arabs were registered as original inhabitants of the city. The English presence in Aden put them at odds with the Ottomans. The Turks asserted to the British that they held sovereignty over the whole of Arabia, including Yemen as successor of Mohammed and the chief of the universal Caliphate.
The Ottomans were concerned about the British expansion from India to the Red Sea and Arabia. They returned to the Tihama in 1849 after an absence of two centuries. Rivalries and disturbances continued among the Zaydi imams, between them and their deputies, with the ulema, with the heads of tribes, as well as with those who belonged to other sects. Some citizens of Sana'a were desperate to return law and order to Yemen and asked the Ottoman Pasha in Tihama to pacify the country. Yemeni merchants knew that the return of the Ottomans would improve their trade, for the Ottomans would become their customers. An Ottoman expedition force tried to capture Sana'a but was defeated and had to evacuate the highlands. The Opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, strengthened the Ottoman decision to remain in Yemen. In 1872, military forces were dispatched from Constantinople and moved beyond the Ottoman stronghold in the lowlands (Tihama) to conquer Sana'a. By 1873 the Ottomans succeeded in conquering the northern highlands. Sana'a became the administrative capital of Yemen Vilayet.
The Ottomans learned from their previous experience and worked on the disempowerment of local lords in the highland regions. they even attempted to secularize the Yemeni society, Yemenite Jews came to perceive themselves in Yemeni nationalist terms. The Ottomans appeased the tribes by forgiving their rebellious chiefs and appointing them to administrative posts. They introduced a series of reforms to enhance the country's economic welfare. On the other hand, corruption was widespread in the Ottoman administration in Yemen. This stemmed from the fact that only the worst of the officials were appointed because those who could avoid serving in Yemen did so. The Ottomans had reasserted control over the highlands for temporary duration. The so-called Tanzimat reforms were considered heretic by the Zaydi tribes. In 1876, the Hashid and Bakil tribes rebelled against the Ottomans, the Turks had to appease them with gifts to end the uprising.
The tribal chiefs were difficult to appease and an endless cycle of violence curbed the Ottoman efforts to pacify the land. Ahmed Izzet Pasha proposed that the Ottoman army should evacuate the highlands and confined itself to Tihama and not to be unnecessarily burdened with continuing military operation against the Zaydi tribes. The hit-and-run tactics of the northern highlands tribesmen wore out the Ottoman military. They resented the Turkish Tanzimat and defied all attempts to impose a central government upon them. The northern tribes united under the leadership of the House of Hamidaddin in 1890. Imam Yahya Hamidaddin led a rebellion against the Turks in 1904, the rebels disrupted the Ottoman ability to govern. The revolts between 1904 and 1911 were especially damaging to the Ottomans, costing them as much as 10,000 soldier and 500,000 pound per year. The Ottomans signed a treaty with imam Yahya Hamidaddin in 1911. Under the treaty, imam Yahya was recognized as an autonomous leader of the Zaydi northern highlands. The Ottomans continued to rule Shafi'i areas in the mid-south until their departure in 1918.
Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen
Imam Yahya hamid ed-Din al-Mutawakkil was ruling the northern highlands independently from 1911. After the Ottoman departure in 1918 he sought to recapture the lands of his Qasimid ancestors. He dreamed of Greater Yemen stretching from Asir to Dhofar. These schemes brought him into conflict with the de facto rulers in the territories claimed, namely the Idrsids, Ibn Saud and the British government in Aden. The Zaydi imam did not recognize the Anglo-Ottoman border agreement of 1905 on the grounds that it was made between two foreign powers occupying Yemen. The border treaty effectively divided Yemen into "north" and "south." In 1915 the British signed a treaty with the Idrsids guaranteeing their security and independence if they would fight against the Turks. In 1919, Imam Yahya hamid ed-Din moved southward to liberate the nine British protectorates. The British responded by moving quickly towards Tihama and occupying al-Hudaydah. Then they handed it over to their Idrisi allies. Imam Yahya attacked the southern protectorates again in 1922. The British bombed Yahya's tribal forces using aircraft to which the tribes had no effective counter.
In 1925, Imam Yahya captured al-Hudaydah from the Idrsids. He continued to follow and attack the Idrsids until Asir fell under the control of the Imam's forces, forcing the Idrisi to request an agreement that would enable them to administer the region in the name of the Imam. Imam Yahya refused the offer on the grounds that the Idrisis were of a Moroccan decent. According to Imam Yahya, the Idrisis, along with the British, were nothing but recent intruders and ought to be driven out of Yemen permanently. In 1927, Imam Yahya's forces were 50 kilometers away from Aden, Ta'izz and Ibb were bombed by the British for five days and the Imam had to pull back. Small Bedouin forces mainly from the Madh'hij confederation of Marib, attacked Shabwah but were bombed by the British and had to retreat.
The Italian Empire was the first to recognize Imam Yahya as the King of Yemen in 1926. This created a great deal of anxiety for the British, who interpreted it as recognition of Imam Yahya's claim to sovereignty over Greater Yemen which included the Aden protectorate and Asir. The idrisis turned to Ibn Saud seeking his protection from Yahya hamid ed-Din.However, in 1932, the Idrisis broke their accord with Ibn Saud and went back to Imam Yahya seeking help against Ibn Saud himself, who had begun liquidating their authority and express his desire to annex those territories into his own Saudi domain. Imam Yahya demanded the return of all Idrisi dominion. That same year, a group of Hejazi liberals fled to Yemen and plotted to expel Ibn Saud from the former Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz which was conquered by the Saudis seven years earlier. Ibn Saud appealed to Britain for aid. The British government sent arms and aeroplanes . The British were anxious that Ibn Saud's financial difficulties may encourage the Italian Empire to bail him out. Ibn Saud suppressed the Asiri rebellion in 1933, after which the Idrsids fled to Sana'a. Negotiations between the Imam Yahya Hamid ed-Din and Ibn Saud proved fruitless. After a military confrontation, Ibn Saud announced a ceasefire in May 1934. Imam Yahya agreed to release Saudi hostages and the surrender of the Idrisis to Saudi custody. Imam Yahya ceded the three provinces of Najran, Asir and Jazan for 20 years. and signed another treaty with the British government in 1934. The Imam recognized the British sovereignty over Aden protectorate for 40 years. Out of fear for Hudaydah, Yahya did submit to these demands. According to Bernard Reich, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, Yahya could have done better by reorganizing the Zaydi tribes of the northern highlands as his ancestors did against the Turks and British intruders and turn the lands they captured into another graveyard.
Arab nationalism made an impact in some circles who opposed the lack of modernization efforts in the Mutawakkilite monarchy. This became apparent when Imam Ahmad bin Yahya died in 1962. He was succeeded by his son, but army officers attempted to seize power, sparking the North Yemen Civil War. The Hamidaddin royalists were supported by Saudi Arabia, Britain, and Jordan (mostly with weapons and financial aid, but also with small military forces), whilst the republicans were backed by Egypt. Egypt provided the republicans with weapons and financial assistance but also sent a large military force to participate in the fighting. Israel covertly supplied weapons to the royalists in order to keep the Egyptian military busy in Yemen and make Nasser less likely to initiate a conflict in Sinai. After six years of civil war, the republicans were victorious (February 1968) and formed the Yemen Arab Republic.
The revolution in the north coincided with the Aden Emergency, which hastened the end of British rule in the south. On 30 November 1967, the state of South Yemen was formed, comprising Aden and the former Protectorate of South Arabia. This socialist state was later officially known as the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and a programme of nationalisation was begun.
Relations between the two Yemeni states fluctuated between peaceful and hostile. The South was supported by the Eastern bloc. The North, however, wasn't able to get the same connections. In 1972, the two states fought a war. The war was resolved with a ceasefire and negotiations brokered by the Arab League, where it was declared that unification would eventually occur. In 1978, Ali Abdallah Saleh was named as president of the Yemen Arab Republic. After the war, the North complained about the South's help from foreign countries. This included Saudi Arabia.
1979 – Fresh fighting between YAR and PDRY. Renewed efforts to unite the two states.
1986 – Thousands die in south in political rivalry. President Ali Nasser Muhammad flees the country and is later sentenced to death for treason. New government formed.
1990 May – "Unified Republic of Yemen proclaimed, with Saleh as president."
In 1990, the two governments reached a full agreement on the joint governing of Yemen, and the countries were merged on 22 May 1990 with Saleh as President. The President of South Yemen, Ali Salim al-Beidh, became Vice-President. A unified parliament was formed and a unity constitution was agreed upon. In the 1993 parliamentary election, the first held after unification, the General People's Congress won 122 of 301 seats.:309
After the invasion of Kuwait crisis in 1990, Yemen's President opposed military intervention from non-Arab states. As a member of the United Nations Security Council for 1990 and 1991, Yemen abstained on a number of UNSC resolutions concerning Iraq and Kuwait and voted against the "use of force resolution". The vote outraged the U.S. Saudi Arabia expelled 800,000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991 to punish Yemen for its opposition to the war.
Following food riots in major towns in 1992, a new coalition government made up of the ruling parties from both the former Yemeni states was formed in 1993. However, Vice-President al-Beidh withdrew to Aden in August 1993 and said he would not return to the government until his grievances were addressed. These included northern violence against his Yemeni Socialist Party, as well as the economic marginalization of the south. Negotiations to end the political deadlock dragged on into 1994. The government of Prime Minister Haydar Abu Bakr Al-Attas became ineffective due to political infighting
An accord between northern and southern leaders was signed in Amman, Jordan on 20 February 1994, but this could not stop the civil war. During these tensions, both the northern and southern armies (which had never integrated) gathered on their respective frontiers. The May – July 1994 civil war in Yemen resulted in the defeat of the southern armed forces and the flight into exile of many Yemeni Socialist Party leaders and other southern secessionists. Saudi Arabia actively aided the south during the 1994 civil war.
Saleh became Yemen's first directly elected president in the 1999 presidential election, winning 96.2% of the vote.:310 The only other candidate, Najeeb Qahtan Al-Sha'abi, was the son of Qahtan Muhammad al-Shaabi, a former President of South Yemen. Though a member of Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) party, Najeeb ran as an independent.
In October 2000, seventeen U.S. personnel died after a suicide attack on the U.S. naval vessel USS Cole in Aden which was subsequently blamed on al-Qaeda. After the September 11 attacks on the United States, President Saleh assured U.S. President George W. Bush that Yemen was a partner in his War on Terror. In 2001, there was violence surrounding a referendum which apparently supported extending Saleh's rule and powers.
The Shia insurgency in Yemen began in June 2004 when dissident cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, head of the Zaidi Shia sect, launched an uprising against the Yemeni government. The Yemeni government alleged that the Houthis were seeking to overthrow it and to implement Shī'a religious law. The rebels counter that they are "defending their community against discrimination" and government aggression.
In 2005, at least 36 people were killed in clashes across the country between police and protesters over rising fuel prices.
In the 2006 presidential election, held on 20 September, Saleh won with 77.2% of the vote. His main rival, Faisal bin Shamlan, received 21.8%. Saleh was sworn in for another term on 27 September.
A suicide bomber killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemenis in the province of Marib in July 2007. There was a series of bomb attacks on police, official, diplomatic, foreign business and tourism targets in 2008. Car bombings outside the U.S. embassy in Sana'a killed 18 people, including six of the assailants in September 2008. In 2008, an opposition rally in Sana'a demanding electoral reform was met with police gunfire.
In January 2009, the Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda branches merged to form Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen, and many of its members were Saudi nationals who had been released from Guantanamo Bay. Saleh released 176 al-Qaeda suspects on condition of good behaviour, but terrorist activities continued.
The Yemeni army launched a fresh offensive against the Shia insurgents in 2009, assisted by Saudi forces. Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the fighting. A new ceasefire was agreed upon in February 2010. However, by the end of the year, Yemen claimed that 3,000 soldiers had been killed in renewed fighting. The Shia rebels accused Saudi Arabia of providing support to salafi groups to suppress Zaidism in Yemen. Saleh's government used Al-Qaeda in its wars against the insurgent Houthis clan.
Some news reports have suggested that, on orders from U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. warplanes fired cruise missiles at what officials in Washington claimed were Al Qaeda training camps in the provinces of Sana'a and Abyan on 17 December 2009. Instead of hitting Al-Qaeda operatives, it hit a village killing 55 civilians. Officials in Yemen said that the attacks claimed the lives of more than 60 civilians, 28 of them children. Another airstrike was carried out on 24 December.
The U.S. launched a series of drone attacks in Yemen to curb a perceived growing terror threat due to political chaos in Yemen. Since December 2009, U.S. strikes in Yemen have been carried out by the U.S. military with intelligence support from CIA. The drone strikes are protested by human-rights groups who say they kill innocent civilians and that the U.S. military and CIA drone strikes lack sufficient congressional oversight, including the choice of human targets suspected of being threats to America. Controversy over U.S. policy for drone attacks mushroomed after a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both U.S. citizens. Another drone strike in October 2011 killed Anwar's teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.
In 2010 the Obama administration policy allowed targeting of people whose names are not known. The U.S. government increased military aid to $140 million in 2010. U.S. drone strikes continued after the ousting of President Saleh.
Revolution and aftermath
The 2011 Yemeni revolution followed other Arab Spring mass protests in early 2011. The uprising was initially against unemployment, economic conditions, and corruption, as well as against the government's proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen so that Saleh's son could inherit the presidency.
In March 2011, police snipers opened fire on the pro-democracy camp in Sana'a, killing more than 50 people. In May, dozens were killed in clashes between troops and tribal fighters in Sana'a. By this point, Saleh began to lose international support. In October 2011, Yemeni human rights activist Tawakul Karman won the Nobel Peace Prize and the UN Security Council condemned the violence and called for a transfer of power. On 23 November 2011, Saleh flew to Riyadh, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, to sign the Gulf Co-operation Council plan for political transition, which he had previously spurned. Upon signing the document, he agreed to legally transfer the office and powers of the presidency to his deputy, Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Hadi took office for a two-year term upon winning the uncontested presidential elections in February 2012, in which he was the only candidate standing. A unity government – including a prime minister from the opposition – was formed. Al-Hadi will oversee the drafting of a new constitution, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014. Saleh returned in February 2012. In the face of objections from thousands of street protesters, parliament granted him full immunity from prosecution. Saleh's son, General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to exercise a strong hold on sections of the military and security forces.
AQAP claimed responsibility for the February 2012 suicide attack on the presidential palace which killed 26 Republican Guards on the day that President Hadi was sworn in. AQAP was also behind the suicide bombing which killed 96 soldiers in Sana'a three months later. In September 2012, a car bomb attack in Sana'a killed 11 people, a day after a local al-Qaeda leader Said al-Shihri was reported killed in the south.
By 2012, there has been a "small contingent of U.S. special-operations troops" – in addition to CIA and "unofficially acknowledged" U.S. military presence – in response to increasing terror attacks by AQAP on Yemeni citizens. Many analysts have pointed out the former Yemeni government role in cultivating terrorist activity in the country. Following the election of new president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the Yemeni military was able push Ansar al-Sharia back and recapture the Shabwah Governorate.
- Original text from U.S. State Dept. Country Study
- (1): DAUM, W. (ed.): Yemen. 3000 years of art and civilisation in Arabia Felix., Innsbruck / Frankfurt am Main / Amsterdam . pp. 53–4.
- History of Yemen
- Timeline of Art History of Arabia including Yemen (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).
- A Dam at Marib
- Das Fenster zum Jemen (German)
- Geschichte des Jemen (German)
- History of Yemen
- Alessandro de Maigret. Arabia Felix, translated Rebecca Thompson. London: Stacey International, 2002. ISBN 1-900988-07-0
- Andrey Korotayev. Ancient Yemen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-19-922237-1 .
- A Dam at Marib
- History of Yemen
- Yemenite Virtual Museum - excellent site with many pictures.
- Encyclopedia of the Nations, Asia and Oceania, Yemen