Middle East

Yemen country profile

Map of Yemen

Despite its ancient roots as the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the modern Republic of Yemen is a relatively new state.

It was created after communist South Yemen and traditional North Yemen merged in 1990, following years of strife.

Tensions remain between the north and the south, however. A southern separatist movement was defeated in a short civil war in 1994, and tensions re-emerged in 2009 when government troops and rebels, known as the Houthi, clashed in the north, killing hundreds and displacing more than a quarter of a million people.

A fresh wave of protests in 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, forced then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh to resign.

Yemen has also become a base for militant groups, like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, adding to instability in the country. The country spiralled into civil war in 2014 and, despite peace initiatives, fighting continues.


Republic of Yemen

Capital: Sanaa

  • Population 25.6 million

  • Area 536,869 sq km (207,286 sq miles)

  • Major language Arabic

  • Major religion Islam

  • Life expectancy 65 years (men), 68 years (women)

  • Currency Yemeni riyal

Getty Images


President: Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi

Image copyright Getty Images

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi came to power in 2012, after then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh stepped down in a bid to end civil unrest.

He resigned in January 2015 and fled the country after Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa.

He is still supported by Saudi Arabia and loyalist forces willing to fight the Houthi rebels. He has set up a temporary capital in the city of Aden.

Yemen is currently in a state of political limbo. The Houthis claim the parliament has been dissolved and replaced by a transitional revolutionary council, headed by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi. But the UN, US and Gulf Co-operation Council refuse to recognize the Houthis' rule.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Houthi rebels have seized the capital. Al-Qaeda-aligned groups hold several other parts of the country


The political uncertainty and insecurity is also affecting Yemen media, according to Reporters Without Borders. The media watch dog documented a string of incidents of harassment, threats and assaults by security forces and unidentified groups or individuals in 2014.

The Houthi movement has also targeted the facilities of the national state broadcaster.

TV and radio are vital elements in Yemen's media scene, due in part to widespread illiteracy.

The broadcasting sector has expanded in recent years and many privately-owned outlets have strong political affiliations. Several privately-owned radio stations are on the air, some of them also affiliated with political parties.


Some key dates in Yemen's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The capital Sanaa has endured air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition trying to displace Houthi rebels who have seized power

1839 - Aden, in South Yemen, comes under British rule. When the Suez Canal opens in 1869, it serves as a refuelling port of strategic importance to the British empire.

1918 - North gains independence with the departure of Ottoman forces.

1969 - South Yemen gains independence from Britain. Marxists take power, renaming country People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and reorienting it towards Soviet bloc.

1990 - The two Yemens unite.

1994 - Brief war of secession ends in defeat of southern separatist forces.

2000 - Al-Qaeda gains prominence in Yemen, ushering in a period of terrorist attacks, instability and crack downs against foreign Islamic clerics operating in the country.

2011 - Protests in Tunisia inspire demonstrations; President Saleh agrees to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

2014 - Houthi rebels overrun the capital, plunging country into civil war and prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene militarily to stop them from gaining more ground.

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