For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Yemen

GEOGRAPHY

Area: 527,970 sq. km. (203,796 sq. mi.); about the size of California and Pennsylvania combined.
Cities: Capital--Sanaa. Other cities--Aden, Taiz, Hodeida, and al-Mukalla.
Terrain: Mountainous interior bordered by desert with a flat and sandy coastal plain.
Climate: Temperate in the mountainous regions in the western part of the country, extremely hot with minimal rainfall in the remainder of the country. Humid on the coast.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Yemeni(s).
Population (2003 est.): 19.3 million.
Annual growth rate: 4%.
Ethnic group: Predominantly Arab.
Religions: Islam, small numbers of Jews, Christians, and Hindus.
Language: Arabic.
Education: Attendance (2002 est.)—64% for primary level, 44% for secondary level. Literacy (2003 est.)--50% overall, including 30% of females.
Health: Infant mortality rate--65.02/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--61 yrs.
Work force (by sector): Agriculture--53%; public services--17%; manufacturing--4%; construction--7%; percentage of total population--25%.

GOVERNMENT
Type: Republic; unification (of former south and north Yemen): May 22, 1990.
Constitution: Adopted May 21, 1990 and ratified May 1991.
Branches: Executive--Prime Minister with Cabinet.
Legislative--bicameral legislature with 111-seat Shura Council and 301-seat House of Representatives. Judicial--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 Sanaa.
Administrative subdivisions: 18 governorates subdivided into districts. Political parties: General People's Congress (GPC), Yemeni Grouping for Reform (Islaah), Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Baathist parties, Nasserist parties, and Muslim fundamentalist parties.
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
National holiday: May 22 (Unity Day).

If a scroll bar appears below the following table, swipe the table to move left/right of the dashed line.
Flag: flag of yemen

Economy
GDP (2002 est.): $9 billion.
Per capita GDP (2002 est.): $840.
Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish, rock salt, minor deposits of coal and copper.
Agriculture (est. 15.2% of GDP): Products--qat (a shrub containing a natural amphetamine), coffee, cotton, fruits, vegetables, cereals, livestock and poultry, hides, skins, tobacco, honey. Arable land (est.)--5%.
Industry (est. 42% of GDP): Types--petroleum refining, mining, food processing, building materials.
Trade (2002 est.): Exports--$3.5 billion: crude petroleum, refined oil products, hides, fish, fruits, vegetables, cotton, coffee, biscuits, plastic pipes. Major markets--Thailand, China, South Korea, Singapore, India.
Imports--$2.8 billion: cereals, feed grains, foodstuffs, machinery, petroleum products, transportation equipment. Major suppliers--United States, France, Italy, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia.
Exchange rate (1st quarter. 2003): Official—183 rials per U.S.$1 and floats based on an average of foreign currencies. Market--since floating the dollar, market rate usually reflects the official rate of exchange.

PEOPLE
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 Zaidi sect of the Shi'a, 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, although African strains are present among inhabitants of the coastal region. 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.

HISTORY
Yemen was one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Between the 12th 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. 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 Hasan 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 suzerainty over south Yemen.

Former North Yemen
Ottoman government control was largely confined to cities with the Imam's suzerainty over tribal areas formally recognized. Turkish forces withdrew in 1918, and Imam Yahya strengthened his control over north Yemen. Yemen became a member of the Arab league in 1945 and the United Nations in 1947.

Imam Yahya died during an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1948 and was succeeded by his son Ahmad, who ruled until his death in September 1962. Imam Ahmad's reign was marked by growing repression, renewed friction with the United Kingdom over the British presence in the south, and growing pressures to support the Arab nationalist objectives of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.

Shortly after assuming power in 1962, Ahmad's son, Badr, was deposed by revolutionary forces which took control of Sanaa and created the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR). Egypt assisted the YAR with troops and supplies to combat forces loyal to the Imamate. Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported Badr's royalist forces to oppose the newly formed republic. Conflict continued periodically until 1967 when Egyptian troops were withdrawn. By 1968, following a final royalist siege of Sanaa, most of the opposing leaders reached a reconciliation; Saudi Arabia recognized the Republic in 1970.

Former South Yemen
British influence increased in the south and eastern portion of Yemen after the British captured the port of Aden in 1839. It was ruled as part of British India until 1937, when Aden was made a crown colony with the remaining land designated as east Aden and west Aden protectorates. By 1965, most of the tribal states within the protectorates and the Aden colony proper had joined to form the British-sponsored federation of south Arabia.

In 1965, two rival nationalist groups--the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF)--turned to terrorism in their struggle to control the country. In 1967, in the face of uncontrollable violence, British troops began withdrawing, federation rule collapsed, and NLF elements took control after eliminating their FLOSY rivals. South Arabia, including Aden, was declared independent on November 30, 1967, and was renamed the People's Republic of South Yemen. In June 1969, a radical wing of the Marxist NLF gained power and changed the country's name on December 1, 1970, to the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). In the PDRY, all political parties were amalgamated into the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which became the only legal party. The PDRY established close ties with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and radical Palestinians.

Republic of Yemen
In 1972, the governments of the PDRY and the YAR declared that they approved a future union. However, little progress was made toward unification, and relations were often strained. In 1979, simmering tensions led to fighting, which was only resolved after Arab League mediation. The goal of unity was reaffirmed by the northern and southern heads of state during a summit meeting in Kuwait in March 1979. However, that same year the PDRY began sponsoring an insurgency against the YAR. In April 1980, PDRY President Abdul Fattah Ismail resigned and went into exile. His successor, Ali Nasir Muhammad, took a less interventionist stance toward both the YAR and neighboring Oman. On January 13, 1986, a violent struggle began in Aden between Ali Nasir Muhammad and the returned Abdul Fattah Ismail and their supporters. Fighting lasted for more than a month and resulted in thousands of casualties, Ali Nasir's ouster, and Ismail's death. Some 60,000 persons, including Ali Nasir and his supporters, fled to the YAR.

In May 1988, the YAR and PDRY governments came to an understanding that considerably reduced tensions including agreement to renew discussions concerning unification, to establish a joint oil exploration area along their undefined border, to demilitarize the border, and to allow Yemenis unrestricted border passage on the basis of only a national identification card.

In November 1989, the leaders of the YAR (Ali Abdallah Saleh) and the PDRY (Ali Salim Al-Bidh) agreed on a draft unity constitution originally drawn up in 1981. The Republic of Yemen (ROY) was declared on May 22, 1990. Ali Abdallah Saleh became President, and Ali Salim Al-Bidh became Vice President.

A 30-month transitional period for completing the unification of the two political and economic systems was set. A presidential council was jointly elected by the 26-member YAR advisory council and the 17-member PDRY presidium. The presidential council appointed a Prime Minister, who formed a Cabinet. There was also a 301-seat provisional unified Parliament, consisting of 159 members from the north, 111 members from the south, and 31 independent members appointed by the chairman of the council.

A unity constitution was agreed upon in May 1990 and ratified by the populace in May 1991. It affirmed Yemen's commitment to free elections, a multiparty political system, the right to own private property, equality under the law, and respect of basic human rights. Parliamentary elections were held on April 27, 1993. International groups assisted in the organization of the elections and observed actual balloting. The resulting Parliament included 143 GPC, 69 YSP, 63 Islaah (Yemeni grouping for reform, a party composed of various tribal and religious groups), 6 Baathis, 3 Nasserists, 2 Al Haq, and 15 independents. The head of Islaah, Paramount Hashid Sheik Abdallah Bin Husayn Al-Ahmar, is the speaker of Parliament.

Islaah was invited into the ruling coalition, and the presidential council was altered to include one Islaah member. Conflicts within the coalition resulted in the self-imposed exile of Vice President Ali Salim Al-Bidh to Aden beginning in August 1993 and a deterioration in the general security situation as political rivals settled scores and tribal elements took advantage of the unsettled situation.

Haydar Abu Bakr Al-Attas (former southern Prime Minister) continued to serve as the ROY Prime Minister, but his government was ineffective due to political infighting. Continuous negotiations between northern and southern leaders resulted in the signing of the document of pledge and accord in Amman, Jordan on February 20, 1994. Despite this, clashes intensified until civil war broke out in early May 1994.

Almost all of the actual fighting in the 1994 civil war occurred in the southern part of the country despite air and missile attacks against cities and major installations in the north. Southerners sought support from neighboring states and received billions of dollars of equipment and financial assistance. The United States strongly supported Yemeni unity, but repeatedly called for a cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table. Various attempts, including by a UN special envoy, were unsuccessful to effect a cease-fire.

Southern leaders declared secession and the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Yemen (DRY) on May 21, 1994, but the DRY was not recognized by the international community. Ali Nasir Muhammad supporters greatly assisted military operations against the secessionists and Aden was captured on July 7, 1994. Other resistance quickly collapsed and thousands of southern leaders and military went into exile.

Early during the fighting, President Ali Abdallah Saleh announced a general amnesty which applied to everyone except a list of 16 persons. Most southerners returned to Yemen after a short exile.

An armed opposition was announced from Saudi Arabia, but no significant incidents within Yemen materialized. The government prepared legal cases against four southern leaders--Ali Salim Al- Bidh, HaydarAbu Bakr Al-Attas, Abd Al-Rahman Ali Al-Jifri, and Salih MunassarAl-Siyali--for misappropriation of official funds. Others on the list of 16 were told informally they could return to take advantage of the amnesty, but most remained outside Yemen. Although many of Ali Nasir Muhammad's followers were appointed to senior governmental positions (including Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Governor of Aden), Ali Nasir Muhammad himself remained abroad in Syria.

In the aftermath of the civil war, YSP leaders within Yemen reorganized the party and elected a new politburo in July 1994. However, the party remained disheartened and without its former influence. Islaah held a party convention in September 1994. The GPC did the same in June 1995.

In 1994, amendments to the unity constitution eliminated the presidential council. President Ali Abdallah Saleh was elected by Parliament on October 1, 1994 to a 5-year term. The constitution provides that henceforth the President will be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates selected by the legislature. Yemen held its first direct presidential elections in September 1999, electing President Ali Abdallah Saleh to a 5-year term in what were generally considered free and fair elections. Yemen held its second multiparty parliamentary elections in April 1997. In April 2003, the third multiparty parliamentary elections were held with improvements in voter registration for both men and women and in a generally free and fair atmosphere. Two women were elected. Constitutional amendments adopted in the summer of 2000 extended the presidential term by 2 years, thus moving the next presidential elections to 2006. The amendments also extended the parliamentary term of office to a 6-year term, thus moving elections for these seats to 2003. On February 20, 2001, a new constitutional amendment created a bicameral legislature consisting of a Shura Council (111 seats; members appointed by the president) and a House of Representatives (301 seats; members elected by popular vote).

Principal Government Officials
President--Ali Abdullah Saleh
Vice President--Abd Al-Rab Mansur Hadi
Prime Minister--Abd al-Qadir Bajjamal
Deputy Prime Minister--Alawi Salah al-Salami
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Abu Bakr al-Qirbi
Minister of Planning and Development--Ahmad Muhammad Abdallah al-Sufan
Minister of Industry and Trade--Abd al-Rahman al-Uthman
Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources--Dr. Rashid Ba Rabba
Ambassador to the United States--Abdulwahab Abdulla Al-Hajjri
Ambassador to the United Nations--Abdallah al-Ashtal

The Republic of Yemen maintains an embassy in the United States at 2600 Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 705, Washington, DC 20037 (tel: 202-965-4760).

ECONOMY
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, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union and China provided large-scale assistance to the YAR. This aid included funding of substantial construction projects, scholarships, and considerable military 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. Only extensive Soviet aid, remittances from south Yemenis working abroad, and revenues from the Aden refinery (built in the 1950s) kept the PDRY's centrally planned Marxist economy afloat. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and a cessation of Soviet aid, the south's economy basically collapsed.

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, providing an $80-million loan in 1996. Yemen has received debt relief from the Paris Club. Some military equipment is still purchased from former East bloc states and China, but on a cash basis.

Following a minor discovery in 1982 in the south, an American company found an oil basin near Marib in 1984. A total of 170,000 barrels per day were produced there in 1995. A small oil refinery began operations near Marib in 1986. A Soviet discovery in the southern governorate of Shabwa has proven only marginally successful even when taken over by a different group. A Western consortium began exporting oil from Masila in the Hadramaut in 1993, and production there reached 420,000 barrels per day in 1999. More than a dozen other companies have been unsuccessful in finding commercial quantities of oil. There are new finds in the Jannah (formerly known as the Joint Oil Exploration Area) and east Shabwah blocks. Yemen's oil exports in 1995 earned about $1 billion.

Marib oil contains associated natural gas. Proven reserves of 10-13 trillion cubic feet could sustain a liquid natural gas (LNG) export project. A long-term prospect for the petroleum industry in Yemen is a proposed liquefied natural gas project (Yemen LNG), which plans to process and export Yemen's 17 trillion cubic feet of proven associated and natural gas reserves. In September 1995, the Yemeni Government signed an agreement that designated Total of France to be the lead company for an LNG project, and, in January 1997, agreed to include Hunt Oil, Exxon, and Yukong of South Korea as partners in the project (YEPC). The project envisions a $3.5 billion investment over 25 years, producing approximately 3.1 million tons of LNG annually. A Bechtel-Technip joint venture also conducted a preliminary engineering study for LNG production/development.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
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.

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 international terrorist groups.

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.

U.S.-YEMEN RELATIONS
The United States established diplomatic relations with the Imamate in 1946. A resident legation, later elevated to embassy status, was opened in Taiz (the capital at the time) on March 16, 1959and moved to Sanaa in 1966. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize the Yemen Arab Republic, doing so on December 19, 1962. A major U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program constructed the Mocha-Taiz-Sanaa highway and the Kennedy memorial water project in Taiz, as well as many smaller projects. On June 6, 1967, the YAR, under Egyptian influence, broke diplomatic relations with the United States in the wake of the Arab-Israeli conflict of that year. Relations were restored following a visit to Sanaa by Secretary of State William P. Rogers in July 1972, and a new USAID agreement was concluded in 1973.

During a 1979 border conflict between the Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, the United States cooperated with Saudi Arabia to greatly expand the security assistance program to the YAR by providing F-5 aircraft, tanks, vehicles and training. George Bush, while Vice President, visited in April 1986, and President Ali Abdallah Saleh visited the United States in January 1990. The United States had a $42 million USAID program in 1990. From 1973 to 1990, the United States provided the YAR with assistance in the agriculture, education, health and water sectors. Many Yemenis were sent on U.S. Government scholarships to study in the region and in the United States. There was a Peace Corps program with about 50 volunteers. The U.S. Information Service operates an English-language institute in Sanaa.

On December 7, 1967, the United States recognized the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and elevated its Consulate General in Aden to embassy status. However, relations were strained. The PDRY was placed on the list of nations that support terrorism. On October 24, 1969, south Yemen formally broke diplomatic relations with the United States. The United States and the PDRY reestablished diplomatic relations on April 30, 1990, only 3 weeks before the announcement of unification. However, the embassy in Aden, which closed in 1969, was never reopened, and the PDRY as a political entity no longer exists.

As a result of Yemen's actions in the Security Council following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the United States drastically reduced its presence in Yemen including canceling all military cooperation, non-humanitarian assistance, and the Peace Corps program. USAID levels dropped in FY1991 to $2.9 million, but food assistance through the PL 480 program continued through 2003. The United States was actively involved in and strongly supportive of the 1993 parliamentary elections and continues working to strengthen Yemen's democratic institutions. The United States supported a unified Yemen during the 1994 civil war. The USAID program, focused in the health field, had slowly increased to $8.5 million in FY 1995, but ended in FY 2000. It was reinvigorated in 2003 and a USAID Mission has re-opened in Sanaa. Yemen also received significant funding from the Middle East Partnership Initiative. Funds went, in large part, to support literacy projects, election monitoring, training for tribal councils, and voter registration for the 2003 parliamentary elections.

Defense relations between Yemen and the U.S. are improving with the recent resumption of International Military Education and Training assistance and the commercial transfer of some military spare parts. Yemen has also received $1.9 million in Foreign Military Financing in FY 2003.

Currently, Yemen is an important partner in the global war on terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and financial arenas. In late November 2001, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited Washington to strengthen U.S.-Yemen relations at this crucial time.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Edmund J. Hull
Deputy Chief of Mission--Alan Misenheimer

The address of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen is P.O. Box 22347, Sanaa, Republic of Yemen. [END]

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

[This is a mobile copy of Yemen (11/03)]