The Republic of Yemen is a country in the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia, and is a part of the Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea, between Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Main article: History of Yemen
Yemen was one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Between the 9th century BC and the 6th century AD, it was part of the Minaean, Sabaean, and Himyarite kingdoms, which controlled the lucrative spice trade, and later came under Ethiopian and Persian rule. It was known to the Romans as "Arabia Felix" ("Happy Arabia") because of the riches its trade generated; Augustus Caesar attempted to annex it, but the expedition failed. In the 7th century, Islamic caliphs began to exert control over the area. After this caliphate broke up, the former north Yemen came under control of Imams of various dynasties usually of the Zaidi sect, who established a theocratic political structure that survived until modern times. (Imam is a religious term. The Shiites apply it to the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law Ali, his sons Hassan and Hussein, and subsequent lineal descendants, whom they consider to have been divinely ordained unclassified successors of the prophet.)
Egyptian Sunni caliphs occupied much of north Yemen throughout the 11th century. By the 16th century and again in the 19th century, north Yemen was part of the Ottoman Empire, and in some periods its Imams exerted control over south Yemen.
Main article: Politics of Yemen
Yemen is a republic with a bicameral legislature. Under the constitution, an elected president, an elected 301-seat House of Representatives, and an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power. The president is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. The constitution provides that the president be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by Parliament; the prime minister is appointed by the president. The presidential term of office is 7 years, and the parliamentary term of elected office is 6 years. Suffrage is universal over 18.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh was elected in 1999; the next presidential elections are scheduled for 2006. In April 2003 parliamentary elections, the General People's Congress (GPC) maintained an absolute majority. International observers judged elections to be generally free and fair, and there was a marked decrease from previous years in election-related violence; however, there were some problems with underage voting, confiscation of ballot boxes, voter intimidation, and election-related violence.
The constitution calls for an independent judiciary. The former northern and southern legal codes have been unified. The legal system includes separate commercial courts and a Supreme Court based in SanaŠ.
Yemen is divided into governorates.
Main article: Governorates of Yemen
Main article: Geography of Yemen
Main article: Economy of Yemen
At unification, both the YAR and the PDRY were struggling, underdeveloped economies. In the north, disruptions of civil war (1962-70) and frequent periods of drought had dealt severe blows to a previously prosperous agricultural sector. Coffee production, formerly the north's main export and principal form of foreign exchange, declined as the cultivation of qat increased. Low domestic industrial output and a lack of raw materials made the YAR dependent on a wide variety of imports.
Remittances from Yemenis working abroad and foreign aid paid for perennial trade deficits. Substantial Yemeni communities exist in many countries of the world, including Yemen's immediate neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula, Indonesia, India, East Africa, and also the United Kingdom, and the United States. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union and China provided large-scale assistance
In the south, pre-independence economic activity was overwhelmingly concentrated in the port city of Aden. The seaborne transit trade, which the port relied upon, collapsed with the closure of the Suez Canal and Britain's withdrawal from Aden in 1967.
Since unification, the government has worked to integrate two relatively disparate economic systems. However, severe shocks, including the return in 1990 of approximately 850,000 Yemenis from the Gulf states, a subsequent major reduction of aid flows, and internal political disputes culminating in the 1994 civil war hampered economic growth.
Since the conclusion of the war, the government entered into agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to institute an extremely successful structural adjustment program. Phase one of the IMF program included major financial and monetary reforms, including floating the currency, reducing the budget deficit, and cutting subsidies. Phase two will address structural issues such as civil service reform. The World Bank also is active in Yemen, with 22 active projects in 2004, including projects to improve governance in the public sector, water, and education. Since 1998, the government of Yemen has sought to implement World Bank economic and fiscal recommendations. In subsequent years, Yemen has lowered its debt burden through Paris Club agreements and restructuring U.S. foreign debt. In 2003, government reserves reached $5 billion.
Marib oil contains associated natural gas. Proven reserves of 10 to 13 trillion cubic feet (283 to 368 km³) could sustain a liquid natural gas (LNG) export project.
The geography and ruling Imams of north Yemen kept the country isolated from foreign influence before 1962. The country's relations with Saudi Arabia were defined by the Taif Agreement of 1934, which delineated the northernmost part of the border between the two kingdoms and set the framework for commercial and other intercourse. The Taif Agreement has been renewed periodically in 20-year increments, and its validity was reaffirmed in 1995. Relations with the British colonial authorities in Aden and the south were usually tense.
The Soviet and Chinese Aid Missions established in 1958 and 1959 were the first important non-Muslim presence in north Yemen. Following the September 1962 revolution, the Yemen Arab Republic became closely allied with and heavily dependent upon Egypt. Saudi Arabia aided the royalists in their attempt to defeat the Republicans and did not recognize the Yemen Arab Republic until 1970. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia provided Yemen substantial budgetary and project support. At the same time, Saudi Arabia maintained direct contact with Yemeni tribes, which sometimes strained its official relations with the Yemeni Government. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis found employment in Saudi Arabia during the late 1970s and 1980s.
In February 1989, north Yemen joined Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt informing the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC), an organization created partly in response to the founding of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and intended to foster closer economic cooperation and integration among its members. After unification, the Republic of Yemen was accepted as a member of the ACC in place of its YAR predecessor. In the wake of the Gulf crisis, the ACC has remained inactive. Yemen is not a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
British authorities left southern Yemen in November 1967 in the wake of an intense terrorist campaign. The people's democratic Republic of Yemen, the successor to British colonial rule, had diplomatic relations with many nations, but its major links were with the Soviet Union and other Marxist countries. Relations between it and the conservative Arab states of the Arabian Peninsula were strained. There were military clashes with Saudi Arabia in 1969 and 1973, and the PDRY provided active support for the Dhofar rebellion against the Sultanate of Oman. The PDRY was the only Arab state to vote against admitting new Arab states from the Gulf area to the United Nations and the Arab League. The PDRY provided sanctuary and material support to various insurgent groups around the Middle East.
Yemen is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, and the organization of the Islamic conference. Yemen participates in the nonaligned movement. The Republic of Yemen accepted responsibility for all treaties and debts of its predecessors, the YAR and the PDRY. Yemen has acceded to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The Gulf crisis dramatically affected Yemen's foreign relations. As a member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for 1990 and 1991,Yemen abstained on a number of UNSC resolutions concerning Iraq and Kuwait and voted against the "use of force resolution." Western and Gulf Arab states reacted by curtailing or canceling aid programs and diplomatic contacts. At least 850,000 Yemenis returned from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
Subsequent to the liberation of Kuwait, Yemen continued to maintain high-level contacts with Iraq. This hampered its efforts to rejoin the Arab mainstream and to mend fences with its immediate neighbors. In 1993, Yemen launched an unsuccessful diplomatic offensive to restore relations with its Gulf neighbors. Some of its aggrieved neighbors actively aided the south during the 1994 civil war. Since the end of that conflict, tangible progress has been made on the diplomatic front in restoring normal relations with Yemen's neighbors. The Omani-Yemeni border has been officially demarcated. In the summer of 2000, Yemen and Saudi Arabia signed an International Border Treaty settling a 50-year-old dispute over the location of the border between the two countries. Yemen settled its dispute with Eritrea over the Hanish Islands in 1998.
Main article: Demographics of Yemen
Unlike other people of the Arabian Peninsula who have historically been nomads or semi-nomads, Yemenis are almost entirely sedentary and live in small villages and towns scattered throughout the highlands and coastal regions.
Yemenis are divided into two principal Islamic religious groups: the Shia Zaidi sect, found in the north and northwest, and the Shafa'i school of Sunni Muslims, found in the south and southeast. Yemenis are mainly of Semitic origin. Arabic is the official language, although English is increasingly understood in major cities. In the Mahra area (the extreme east), several non-Arabic languages are spoken. When the former states of north and south Yemen were established, most resident minority groups departed.
The country has one of the world's highest birth rates; the average Yemeni woman bears seven children. Although this is similar to the rate in Somalia to the south, it is roughly twice as high as that of Saudi Arabia and nearly three times as high as those in the more modernized Gulf Arab states.
Main article: Culture of Yemen
Yemenite Jews are the Jewish people who live, or whose recent ancestors lived, in Yemen. They are known as Teimanim, and are considered to be a subdivision of Mizrahi Jews.