SANAA, Yemen -- The boom of explosions swept across the high-walled compounds and minarets of this ancient Arab capital before dawn one day last week, as Shiite rebels battled for control of a mountain overlooking the city and its airport.
Government warplanes backed by artillery rebuffed the rebels, the latest skirmish in a largely hidden sectarian conflict that has drawn increasing attention from Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, Shiite Iran and Sunni extremists eager for a fight.
Keep in mind that the people who belong to a particular sect are far more likely to marry other members of their sect than to marry other sects. The cousin marriage practice in the Middle East makes sects into extended families with complex tight tribal loyalties.
"I believe this war is a proxy war," Yemeni lawmaker Ahmed Saif Hashed said in Sanaa, where civilians of the same Shiite sect as the rebels say they are facing increasing detentions, beatings and surveillance.
The rebellion is being mounted by Yemen's Hashemite Shiites, who ruled the country for more than a 1,000 years until an alliance of Shiite and Sunni military officers deposed them in 1962. Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, belongs to the country's larger Shiite community, known as the Zaidis.
But a different analysis of the war (see further down) argues the rebellion in Yemen is by Zaidis.
Lebanon is considered a pretty cool place and it is nearer Europe and Israel. So Lebanon gets lots of coverage. But Yemen is the pits. The major international rights groups do not find it either groovy enough or accessible enough to bother.
Major international rights groups largely bypass Yemen, leaving unexamined and unamplified allegations that government tanks, warplanes and artillery routinely bombard northern Shiite villages. Smuggled videos show that some villages around Saada have been gutted and largely emptied of all but Shiite fighters.
"If a cat dies in Lebanon, the world knows about it," said Muhatwari, who said his school and mosque in the capital have been shuttered by the government. "Here in Yemen, we are forgotten."
At any given moment, nearly 16 percent of women in Yemen are pregnant, according to the latest survey of health matters by the Ministry of Health. This is a very high number of pregnant women, particularly as the government has been trying to encourage people to carefully plan their families and space out births, so as not to risk the health of mothers and children. The strain of continuous pregnancy and birth can have a ruinous effect on women’s health, particularly if they begin having children at a young age. According to Yemen’s most recent Demographic, Maternal and Child Health Survey, 48 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18. Fourteen percent, meanwhile, were married before the age of 15.
Marrying this early is very dangerous to the health of a woman, because she risks early pregnancy, which can siphon away the nutrients her own body needs to develop properly. These very early marriages raise the number of pregnant women in Yemen at any given time, and expand the number of births they will go through during their life span, which could have a dramatic impact on their health. In a study conducted by Marie Stopes International in cooperation with the World Health Organization, fertility in Yemen, at 6.5 children per woman, is amongst the highest in the world.
I found an analysis of the Yemen conflict that makes it sound like Zaidi Shiites are driving the rebellion in Yemen.
Zaidi Shi'ism is one of three main branches of the Shi'a movement, together with "Twelver Shi'ism" and the Isma'ili branch. Unlike the other branches, the Zaidis are restricted almost solely to the Yemen area. Their form of Shari'a law follows the Sunni Hanafi school, which has aided in their integration with the Yemeni Sunnis. The Zaidi Imams ruled Yemen from the ninth century until 1962, with interruptions. The Shi'a represents roughly 40% of Yemen's 20 million people.
The Zaidi rebellion first erupted in 2004 after rebels began attacking army positions across the north of the state. The rebels—who called for the restoration the Zaidi imamate, which ruled the capital, Sana'a, until a 1962 coup by republican force regard the Saleh regime as illegitimate. The group took up positions in the mountains and has been able to inflict significant damage on the Yemeni army and undermine its control in the north. The conflict also assumed a regional dynamic as Saleh accused Iran of sponsoring the rebellion as part of its expanding effort to project its power across the region.
Since fighting began in 2004, the totality of Zaidism has been under attack. The Yemeni regime has prohibited some mainstream Zaidi religious literature, replaced Zaidi preachers with Salafis at gunpoint and even banned some Zaidi religious festivals. This caused considerable outrage among the believers.
My advice: Keep the tribal Middle Eastern Muslims out of the United States and then we can just read about these people in newspaper articles.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2008 June 23 10:39 PM Ethnic Conflict|