A recent episode of Al Jazeera’s Inside Story featured human rights activist Baraa Shiban, researcher Adam Baron, and civil society activist Mohammad Al Shami, discussing the country’s failed revolution, ongoing war, and humanitarian crisis. The consensus among the three experts was that the failed transition following the 2011 revolution, which allowed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to stay in the country, is largely to blame for the current situation in Yemen. According to Shiban, there was an underestimation in 2011 of the counter revolution and how willing Saleh was to push the country into all-out civil war. It was already clear in 2011 that Saleh would try to spoil the transition, and the GCC agreement simply delayed the conflict that Yemen is now witnessing, according to Shiban. Baron agrees that the transitional period only managed to postpone further bloodshed. “The transitional authority was incompetent and split between parties that had been at war for a year.”
The alliance forged between Saleh and the Houthis is one of convenience and survival, according to Al Shami, and the threat now posed by the Houthis to Saudi Arabia exacerbated the already deeply complex situation in Yemen as it pushed the Saudis to intervene in 2015. Baron states that the conflict in Yemen is not a proxy war as much as it is a series of inconnecting political battles. At its essence, he argues, it is locally rooted.
The incessant fighting in Yemen has taken a toll on all citizens, but Al Shami says that the younger generation is most profoundly affected as many young people are participating in the war, mostly as a way to earn money or privilege from various factions.
In order to end this war and prevent future conflicts, Shiban says that Saleh must be removed from Yemen or face sanctions. Baron notes that “unless there’s a genuine shift in how politics is done in Yemen, we’ll just see conflicts repeating in some other form.”
View the episode here (not available in all countries).