Het dossier Yemen, geschreven in 2007 en ge-update in 2011 door Abu Melle, is vanaf vandaag beschikbaar via Fanack.org, website met ondertitel: Chronicle of the Middle East & North Africa. Het dossier omvat een online encyclopedie, actualiteiten en niet eerder vrijgegeven documenten. Surf voor een impressie naar fanack.org.
Na lange voorbereiding nu deels live: de nieuwe website fanack.com, voorheen met ondertitel: an encyclopedia of the … maar nu geheten: a chronicle of the middle east.
Nu met zes landen online, over negen maanden volgen de overige negen, waaronder Yemen, waarvoor de bouwstenen in 2008 werden aangedragen door Abu Melle. En geactualiseerd afgelopen juni 2011. Lees ook de blog, voor actuelere zaken.
Yemen is a culturally rich country. The formidable architecture with its unique houses has been seamlessly integrated into the spectacular landscape. Poetry and literature are not classified or written down, but passed on orally to new generations, enriching the language with many sayings and proverbs. Popular culture has a rough, masculine edge to it, but the Yemeni language and speech are rather eloquent and poetical.
During much of the twentieth century, Yemen was virtually cut off from the outside world as a result of the theocracy of the Imams Yahya and Ahmad. The revolution of 1962 ended the isolation and signalled the start – boosted by the introduction of western-style democracy since 1990 – of an array of newspapers, many of which still exist today. However, most of them represent a particular political, tribal or economic faction in Yemen; only a few are really independent. Moreover, many opposition newspapers have been closed down by the authorities at one time or another, their editors and journalists imprisoned or otherwise harassed. This has put a severe dent in official Yemeni press freedom. Internet sites are often blocked by authorities, but show remarkable resilience and ingenuity, opening the world to Yemen and vice versa.
The era of Yemeni domination of trade routes and much demanded export products – such as frankincense, myrrh and coffee – is long gone. Yemeni economy is very poor. Virtually no export products are produced. The economy rests largely on oil export, remittances and foreign aid, which feed the consumption, the informal sector and the booming qat production.
Though rapidly urbanizing, Yemen is still a very rural country. Nearly three quarters of the population leads a traditional, rural life in sometimes very remote mountain villages. Poverty is widespread, social injustice is deep. Begging is common in the streets of the big cities. Women are denied an equal position in society. Healthcare is improving fast.
Yemen’s political system is complicated, and sometimes paradoxical. Political alliances depend on many factors, as they do in all states. In Yemen, this is complicated by the strong position of the tribe (al qabila), which is always looking out for tribal (and often conservative) interests. The tribe can be regarded as an extension of the family, reaching far beyond the extended or expanded family. Backed by a strong tribal base, longtime president Saleh has proved a master in balancing the country’s powers. In doing so, Saleh has held the country together in relative peace, but has also created obscurity, widespread corruption and nepotism. This has proved a less favourable environment for progress, investment and innovation.
Yemen has a long history of independence. Legend speaks of the Queen of Sheba, or of Arabia Felix. Facts teach us that no one ever really succeeded in conquering Yemen, an inaccessible mountainous country riddled by stubborn tribes.
Yemenis themselves speak of before and after the history of Yemen. With ‘before history’ Yemenis refer to the impressive pre-Islamic civilizations, some of the earliest in history. They represent a rich source for archaeologists, which can compete with civilizations elsewhere in the Middle East. In Yemen itself this era instills an – albeit sometimes uneasy – sense of pride, for these peoples were un-Islamic in habits and customs.
As a consequence, it is mostly foreign academics and researches who conduct research on these ancient civilizations. Morever, the conservation of pre-Islamic sites is not always adequate. For instance, the columns of the temple of Bilqis are subject to graffiti and carving of modern names by young visitors. A further complication regarding archaeological research and conservation is the location of the sites. These are found mainly in tribal territory, which is not always controlled by the government. Before and after excavations researchers usually have to spend long hours negotiating with tribal leaders.
The population of Yemen is to a high degree homogeneous. All Yemenis are ethnic Arabs with a strong tribal ancestry. The only distinction is whether a tribe has an affiliation with the Sunni (Shafi) Islam or the Shia (Zaidi) Islam. There is also a small minority of Shia Ismailis. There used to be a large number of Jews, but at present the Jewish community number only one or two thousand.
Yemen’s population is the largest of the Arabian Peninsula, and has been a prime source of Arab diaspora since ancient times. Peoples from North Africa to Indonesia trace their ancestry back to Yemen. Tribal influences remain very strong in Yemen, resulting in a sometimes puzzling political system. The people of the Akhdam make up a neglected Yemeni underclass, and have no rights.