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The Yemeni Uprising: A Product of Twenty Years of Grassroots Mobilization

Abstract and Keywords

Conventional frameworks for understanding the Yemeni uprising that began in 2011 often fail to incorporate the role of mobilized publics and previous forms of contestations in the buildup to the uprising, and in the continued struggle for the social, political, and economic transformation of Yemen. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the legacies and intersectionalities of various forms of contestations that developed in Yemen since 1990, represented by the activities of the Huthis in the North, al-Hirak in the South and civil society, including youth and women, and to explore their impact on the uprising and the pro-democracy movement since 2011. Political actions taken to address corruption, unemployment, and lack of basic human rights had created an oppositional identity that facilitated collective actions during the uprising in 2011.

Keywords: Civil Society, democracy, Hirak, Huthis, politics of contestation, uprising, women, Yemen, youth

The departure of Zayn al-ʿAbidin Bin ʿAli from Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak from Egypt in January and February of 2011 respectively clearly instilled Yemenis with hope. Yet it is too simplistic to treat them as the sole catalysts of the movement that emerged in Yemen in the winter of 2011. For two decades before the fall of Bin ʿAli, Yemen witnessed an array of political actions against injustice, massive unemployment, population growth, a failing economy, and absence of basic rights. These included the creation and maintenance of a coalition of opposition political parties, social movements such as the Huthis in North Yemen and al-Ḥirāk (al-Hirak) in the South, and the continuous weekly protests in Freedom Square. These forces, I argue, were essential to creating a vibrantif often violently suppressedoppositional identity, and ultimately made possible the consolidation of collective actions that erupted in the capital Sanaa on January 15, 2011.

Yemeni History 101

At the end of the First World War, Yemen became the first Arab country to become independent,1 when the Zaydi2 imam, Yahya Muhammad Hamid al-Din, established the Mutawakkilite Kingdom in northern Yemen in 1918. The kingdom lasted until 1962, when a military coup in Sanaa dethroned the imam and formed the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR). Meanwhile in the South, the Aden Protectorate remained in British hands until November 1967, when British forces retreated following a guerrilla war led by two nationalist groups, the National Liberation Front and its rival the Arab Nationalist Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen. After independence, the former seized power from its rival, reorganized itself into the Yemini Socialist Party (YSP), and established a Marxist–Leninist regime, known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen which was committed to a radically egalitarian program.3

Following a power struggle for the leadership of the YSP, a brutal civil war erupted in 1986. Southern President ʿAli Nasir Muhammad and tens of thousands of supporters fled north across the border escaping factional fighting. They were welcomed by the Arab Republic of Yemen’s president, ʿAli ʿAbdullah Salih, who played them against the YSP which remained in Aden.4 Salih, from a humble background with little formal education, had risen, surprisingly, through the ranks of the army and had come to power in 1978. Few expected he would last, especially since the previous two presidents had been assassinated.5 Nevertheless, Salih maneuvered his way to a thirty-three-year autocracy.

North and South Yemen were officially unified on May 22, 1990 as a result of the November 1989 agreement reached by President Salih of the Arab Republic of Yemen and ʿAli Salim al-Bid, the General Secretary of the YSP. The unification brought two ideologically opposed states together into one. Sanaa became the seat of government while Salih served as an interim president. He held the swing vote on crucial matters of state policy.6 For a brief period, the new coalition government embarked on democratization. Freedom of expression was booming, repression and violence diminished, and many political forces were participating in the Yemeni government. As Ursula Braun noted, within the first year of unification, “150 publications of all hues, hundreds of civil associations, and no less than thirty-eight political parties had formed.”7

Despite these democratic developments, real unification never took place. The two armed forces were never placed under a single command, while President Salih continuously looked for ways to consolidate his power at the expense of the YSP. A year after unity, Salih’s ruling party, the General People’s Congress, supported the formation of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, known as al-Tajammuʿ al-Yamani li-l Iṣlāḥ or simply al-Islah. By creating a third party that was aligned to the Congress party, the ruling party hoped to shift the balance of power in their favor and against the YSP.

Al-Islah party brought together three different groups: the Muslim Brothers who were active under the GPC in the North, prominent Northern tribal leaders including Sheikh ʿAbdullah Al-Ahmar, and Salafis such as Sheikh Abdulmajid al-Zindani. What they had in common was “a measure of social conservatism, a largely Northern political base, and a deep skepticism ofif not downright hostility toward—Southern Socialism.”8 They also had strong tribal and family links to President Salih. The formation of al-Islah, indeed, proved beneficial in reducing the power of the YSP, as seen by the first parliamentary election of unified Yemen in 1993 that resulted in a coalition government which included all three parties9, with the YSP having the least number of seats.

In early May 1994, fighting between the North and South erupted after a number of political assassinations, the imbalance in economic distribution in the North’s favor, and the failed attempts to merge the two armies. In addition, Salafis affiliated with al-Islah inspired young men to engage in violence against the “communist apostates” in the South. On May 21, 1994, after three weeks of clashes, former Southern leader ʿAli Salim al-Bid, formally declared secession from the North. A full-scale war dragged on until July 7, when President Salih’s troops marched into Aden while al-Bid and his colleagues fled the country. Four years later, the YSP was “temporarily disabled as a contender for national power.”10 Meanwhile in the North, Salih further consolidated his power, and ruled “by creating confusion, crisis and sometimes fear among those who might challenge him.”11 While violence, brutal force, and assassinations were used against those who opposed him, the most common tactics of the president included threats, co-optation, and bribery.

Contentious Politics Prior to 2011

The vast number of diverse social groups who expressed their discontent, articulated grievances, and demanded reform, severely challenged the social, political, and economic conditions that Yemen faced after reunification in 1993. These constant mobilizations constituted what Stacey Philbrick Yadav called “antecedents of the revolution.”12 This section will highlight three groups of “antecedents” that were active in opposing the regime in various forms since the 1990s.

Political Parties and the Formation of the Cross-Ideological Opposition Bloc

In the 1997 parliamentary elections, the Congress party won 187 of the 301 seats.13 Several opposition parties including the YSP boycotted the election after the government harassed and arrested their party workers. al-Islah ran as an opposition party, and won fifty-three seats, losing ten seats from the previous election.

In an attempt to unify the left against the ruling GPC and the Islamist al-Islah party, several secular opposition parties buried their differences and created the Coordination Council of the Yemeni Opposition headed by the YSP “to coordinate political activities, including presenting joint election lists for the municipal elections in 2001.”14 Then in a surprising move, the Coordinating Council expanded to include al-Islah and other parties in the form of al-Liqāʾ al-Mushtarak or the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP). This was aimed at uniting the entire opposition to the ruling Congress party.15 Despite the tensions, the setbacks, and the diversity amongst the JMP, they have nevertheless managed to stay united to this day. While the JMP networks and forums established many links between activists and politicians across partisan lines, at times they alienated a number of their members including many women.

An instructive example of this alienation is the debate over Sanaa University’s Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Center which was established in 1993.16 al-Islah extremists demanded the center’s suspension and threatened the founder, Dr. Raufa Hasan’s life, claiming that it endangered Islamic values. The Center was eventually closed, then reopened years later. The disappointment and abandonment that Yemeni women politicians felt was compounded by the political parties’ lack of support for women candidates in the 2003 national elections. Those who decided to run did so as independents without party support. In response, many women disengaged from direct politics and invested their energy in the associational sector instead, where they found new possibilities for political participation and contestation.

After the 2001 law that allowed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to officially register at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, NGOs mushroomed across Yemen. While the majority of these NGOs served the ruling party or al-Islah, a few independent groups, which were often led and staffed by women, managed to promote political reform, document human rights abuses, and challenge the status quo. This general discontent with the party political process was not only felt by women, but also the younger male JMP members who felt that their priorities of highlighting issues linked to unemployment, better education, and involvement in the parties’ decision-making were neglected. The longer the regime ignored their grievances, the more the ranks of the discontented swelled.

AnṣārullahPartisans of God (Commonly Known as Huthis)

The government’s tacit support for hardline Salafis and Wahhabis throughout Yemen allowed the latter to build new schools, even in areas that have historically been Zaydi, such as Saada Governorate along Yemen’s northern border with Saudi Arabia. This support contributed to the decline of Zaydism in some areas, which had already began after the overthrow of the imamate in 1962,17 and intensified with the spread of Wahhabism in Yemen. President Salih’s own background was Zaydi, but he supported Wahhabism even though it “actively opposes both the main Yemeni schoolsZaydi Shiism in the north and Shafii Sunnism in the South and in the Tihama.”18 With their strong revolutionary motivation, the Zaydis posed a more immediate threat to both the Salih regime and neighboring Saudi Arabia.

In response to the sense of threat and “dilution of identity,” al-Shabāb al-Muʾmin or the Believing Youth Movement, was created as an informal advocacy group for Zaydi education and culture in Saada in the early 1990s. It sought to protect religious and cultural traditions in Saada from Wahhabi ideology. True to his tactic of playing powers one against another, Salih tolerated the group and at times even supported it to counter the growth of the Salafis. The Believing Youth ran summer study sessions, printed and distributed Zaydi literature19, and held rallies protesting the expansion of government-supported Wahhabi ideology. They also demonstrated against the underdevelopment of the Governorate of Saada—which is among Yemen’s poorest governorates. Then, galvanized by the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Believing Youth Movement shifted from religious and cultural to political activism.20 It started issuing public statements against the central government, attacking President Salih directly in its sermons, invoking the importance of Khurūj21, and encouraging its followers to refuse to pay taxes. Since then, the movement has come to be known as the “Huthis,” in reference to their leader, Husayn Badr al-Din Huthi (1956–2004).22

When Huthis began gaining more power, President Salih ordered a general crackdown on them. Following an anti-government demonstration by members of the Believing Youth in Saada, Salih’s security services attempted to arrest Husayn al-Huthi. This sparked a brutal conflict between Huthis and the Yemeni government in 2004. President Salih asserted that the Huthis would be handled once and for all, and pledged to crush the rebels with a “scorched-earth” policy.23 To garner international support, the government accused them of seeking to establish a Shiʿi theocracy in Saada and to revive the Zaydi Imamate, and linked the rebellion to the American war on terror.24 The Yemeni government claimed that Huthis’ supporters included Libya, al-Qaʿida, the Lebanese Hizbullah, and Iran.25 The Huthis rejected this claim, but with a full media blackout, their perspective failed to reach the broader public.

The first round of fighting ended with government forces killing of Husayn al-Huthi in 2004.26 Yet, instead of crushing the Huthis, it incited support for them. The Yemeni regime banned or severely restricted reporting from Saada and, in fact, prosecuted several reporters and media organizations on allegations of supporting the insurrection.27 For example, journalist ʿAbdulkarim al-Khaywani was arrested in 2004 and was sentenced to death, but was later pardoned due to international pressure.28 The war grew more dangerous in November 2009 when Saudi Arabia openly joined on the side of the Yemeni government. Tens of thousands of Yemenis were killed, including women and children, and more than 340,000 people were displaced.29 This misery was compounded by reports of food blockades, power outages, and media blackouts in Saada.

These wars positioned the Anṣārullah or Huthis, as a key oppositional force in the country. Their raison d’être became “resistance to Yemeni military offensive.”30 The fighting was also simultaneously complicated by intra-elite power struggles to determine a successor for President Salih, especially in the midst of reports of clashes between General ʿAli MuhsinSalih’s second man—the commander of the northern military district, and Ahmad ʿAli, the president’s son and commander of the Republican Guard.31 A ceasefire was later reached in mid-February 2010, yet the government did not address the underlying grievances.

Al-Ḥirāk al-Janūbi—the Southern Movement

Since unification and reunification, Southerners have complained of marginalization by the Northerner-led government in jobs, political power, and land acquisition. Central to Southern dissatisfaction were economic grievances. For example, while oil is located mostly in the South, the region has seen little economic development. Southerners have asserted that the North has never followed through on commitments to improve conditions. Tensions, protests, and sporadic violence followed and continued to increase. By the mid-2000s, many Southerners had completely lost trust in Salih. At the same time, the conflicts that had occurred in Saada exposed the regime’s vulnerabilities, proving that the central government was, in fact, weak.

In May 2007, former Southern military officers, headed by General Nasir ʿAli al-Nuba32, who had been forced into early retirement with worthless pensions after the 1994 war, began holding weekly sit-ins in the streets.33 Fearing the spread of this opposition, the government detained al-Nuba and a few of his colleagues later that year.34 Protests nevertheless grew to tens of thousands. Then, on the eve of Yemen’s October 14 holiday commemorating South Yemen’s revolt against British rule in 1963, security forces shot and killed four young men in the very streets where British colonial soldiers had killed seven Yemenis exactly forty-four years earlier. This violence ignited massive anti-government protests across the South.

By spring 2008, the anti-government protests, while having no central leadership, began organizing under the name “al-Ḥirāk al-Silmi al-Janūbi” or the “Peaceful Southern Movement,” that later became known as simply al-Hirak. They demanded equal citizenship, jobs, greater local decision-making power, and more control over the South’s economic resources.35 By 2009, demonstrators began waving the flag of the former South Yemen, which had not been seen publically since the 1994 war. Some Southern figures associated with jihadists, such as Sheikh Tariq al-Fadli,36 joined al-Hirak. As a result, a faction of the Southern Movement became more radical and more militarized, with alleged links to al-Qaʿida.37 Yet, the majority members of al-Hirak continued to distance themselves from militants and the movement remained largely a political one seeking redress for failure of the unity through peaceful means.

Through sit-ins, protests, and distribution of literature, al-Hirak highlighted the growing incapacity of the Salih regime to take into account the demands of the people and deal with grievances through non-repressive means. They pointed to Aden’s commercial advantage as a port city, and the revenues that flowed to Sanaa rather than to Aden. Women pointed to the regress in gender equality since unification and young graduates complained of lack of jobs in the South. As expected, the central government cracked down on al-Hirak through what Human Rights Watch called “unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, beatings, crackdowns on freedom of assembly and speech, arrests of journalists.”38 The authorities again used the “war on terror” as a pretext to detain, kill, or incarcerate many Southern Movement activists. Dozens of journalists were subjected to politicized court proceedings, frequently on anti-state charges. In the South, al-Ayyām’s editor, Hisham Basharahil, and another journalist working for this independent newspaper were charged with “instigating national feuds,” “instigating the spirit of separatism,” and “harming national unity.”

But the more attacks the Southern Movement endured, the more members joined. With time, it became a political umbrella for multiple Southern opposition groups with demands ranging from federalism to outright independence.

Street Mobilizations: Public Protests and Strike Action

Following the Southern example of protests and civil disobedience, activists, civil society leaders, and journalists began holding similar activities in the North. Various street mobilizations took place since the 2004 war in Saada, mainly by relatives of the disappeared, political prisoners, and martyrs, in addition to journalists demanding access to the conflict zones. From 2007 onward, protesters began gathering in front of the government buildings to express their concern over the deteriorating political atmosphere, the lack of freedom of expression, and increased arbitrary arrests and political detentions. With time, this became a weekly event—every Tuesday—to coincide with the cabinet meetings. Activists with different types of demands convened in this symbolic location, which came to be known popularly as Saḥat al-Ḥurriyyah or Freedom Square and which the London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsaṭ considered “the Yemeni Hyde Park.”39

Given the formal parties’ complete shut-out of female politicians, it is striking that many of these street protests were organized by female activists and journalists, thus challenging the patriarchal traditions and the strict public/private division in Yemen. In fact, women led and organized many of the protests, including those demanding the release of the 115 Guantanamo Yemeni detainees, the largest group among the detainees remaining in Guantanamo.40 One cause which the protesters on Freedom Square advocated was the eviction of dozens of families known as al-Jaʿāshin. In 2009, a local tribal sheikh, Muhammad Mansur expelled dozens of families from Raash village for refusing to pay taxes to him.41 Then on July 25, 2010, the evicted began a hunger strike to protest the injustice against them and to bring the activists’ attention to the issue. Their weekly protests garnered strong support from members of civil society, journalists, and even average citizens because it raised the broader issue of tribal rule in Yemen.

In 2008, port workers, day laborers, school teachers, and university professors joined the fray as they organized numerous strikes and labor action in cities across Yemen. Oil workers were among the most active in the years preceding the 2011 uprising. Their strikes shut down oilfields, refineries, and pipelines all over the country six times in less than three years.42 The considerable cost of work stoppages to the state’s finances succeeded in extracting periodic concessions from the Yemeni government. Professional syndicates also mobilized. In 2010, a fatal attack on Dr. Dirham al-Qadasi, led to a month-long sit-in by relatives and colleagues. In addition, the Yemeni Physicians and Pharmacist Syndicate announced a full strike on January 22, 2010 in order to denounce the attack on one of their colleagues and the lack of accountability. Even though some hospitals placed security guards at the gates to prevent their doctors from participating in the sit-in, the sustained pressure from physicians, activists, and the general public forced the authorities to finally arrest the five individuals accused of the murder of the popular physician.43

While Article 58 of the Yemeni Constitution guarantees citizens the right to create and establish associations and unions, the strikers were dismissed and detained on several occasions.44 The regime also responded violently at times by using live ammunition against protesting workers, and by incarcerating a large number of union members. Despite the violations and abuse against workers, the awareness of political opportunity culminated in the general strike of May 2010.45 This nation-wide protest forced the regime to the negotiating table and procured conditional improvements for public sector workers.46

The 2011 Uprising and the Convergence of Movements

The protests over the past decades substantially weakened President Salih’s grip on power and prepared the ground for the 2011 uprising. While these various groups and movements came from different backgrounds with divergent goals, they all challenged the central government. This is what led one keen Yemen observer to conclude that “the revolution in Yemen is not the creation of the youth, it is the complex by-product of previous mobilizations and of a specific context.”47 Two factors mark this continuity: a large number of revolutionaries came from the pre-2011 movements; and the various protests, sit-ins, and marches before and during the 2011 uprising targeted precisely those public spaces that were the preserve of the ruling elite. The existence of political cadres with experience in organizing and linking protests as well as their ability to mobilize large numbers of people who demanded change publically and without authorization, shifted the power dynamics in Yemeni politics. The government’s interaction with the protesters was a recognition of their power.

The first call for a protest demanding the overthrow of the Salih regime was on the night news reached Yemen that former Tunisian President Bin ʿAli had escaped. The next morning, January 15, 2011, a few activists and students gathered in front of the Tunisian embassy chanting “al-shaʿb yurīd isqāṭ al-nizām” (“the people want to overthrow the regime”). Other protests followed, and after Mubarak of Egypt stepped down on February 11, 2011, the situation in Yemen escalated. On that night, protesters in the city of Taiz held a sit-in. Two days later, university students also held a sit-in at Sanaa University where they vowed to stay “until the end of the regime.” A week later, Sanaa was filled with thousands of protesters, and with time the protest site transformed into a three-kilometer tent city that protesters started calling “Change Square.”

The School of Democratic Resistance

Since many members of civil society, activists, and journalists knew each other from the pre-2011 protests, it was easy to reconnect and form a network that transcended tribal, class, ideological, and regional affiliations. By the end of February 2011, over 400 coalitions were formed in Change Square in Sanaa. Liberals, leftists, Islamists, tribesmen, mothers, fathers, as well as apolitical activists formed various groups to promote change. In an attempt to unify the voices of the early independent youth48, the Coordination Council for Yemeni Revolutionary Youth was created, and together with another group, al-Waṭan li-l-Jamīʿ—“The Country for All,” they managed to unify, despite their diversity, the demands of all revolutionaries in a list of thirteen specific points.49

The various Change Squares throughout the country transformed the public spaces in the cities into what Bonnefoy calls “a lively political festival.”50 The activists proved to be very creative. They developed new means of communication, chanted innovative slogans, used art, music, theater, and poetry as means of mobilizing and shaping ideas.51

Leaders of civil society used their knowledge to help raise awareness about political rights, the constitution, and social issues. For example, a coalition called the Free Independent Yemenis made up of political activists and social scientists began what was called the “Academic Tent.” This tent offered daily afternoon lectures on a host of political issues, including civil rights, human rights, feminism, the constitution, social justice, and structure of the state. In addition, since the university remained closed, many protesters, most notably, the well-known sociology Professor al-Dughaish and his wife Ihssan used their tents to provide tutoring classes for university students (which was later opposed by al-Islah for the mixing of men and women inside the tent). In addition, literary classes were held and more than twenty newspapers were produced and distributed by both professional and “citizen journalists.”52

The most notable and, indeed, inspiring aspect of the uprising was the duration of its peaceful nature. Yet, this was hardly unprecedented. Peaceful resistance practices of the 2011 uprising owed much to al-Hirak. As Nabil Subayʿ, an independent liberal journalist, reminds us: “the southern movement started from the very beginning as an explicitly pacific movement. It was quite certainly the most durable contestation movement to use this specific type of action, not only in Yemen but also in the Middle East.” He added: “The previous methods of contestation as well as the demands of the protesters have shaped much of Yemeni contestation.”53 What was unique, however, was that armed tribesmen who pride themselves in the type of weapon they own, put down their arms, and remained peaceful even when attacked. The reaction to the murder of ʿAwad al-Surayhi, a young tribesman from Maʾrib, by thugs on February 26, 2011 was a case in point. When a group of women went to the tent where al-Surayhi’s family resided, they asked them not to seek revenge. The family responded: “the only revenge will be building a new Yemen.”54

A political culture of feminist resistance that had begun to emerge in Yemen’s civil society in the 1990s was also present in the uprising. In 2011, just as in previous protests, women were not only present in protests but were also initiators and organizers of the first demonstrations against the regime. These women resisted patriarchy but also promoted a new culture of equality, by merely staying put in the square. Their steadfastness had a significant impact on a number of feminists who worked to politicize Yemini women. Women in the square created their own subculture in the revolutionary camps. They were encouraged to participate in all activities side-by-side with men. They took part in front-line actions, as well as behind the scenes and in more traditional—but just as important actions—such as procuring, preparing, and cooking food for protesters, and nursing the wounded. Schooled in the vibrant Yemeni associational sector, women rapidly assumed positions of authority within the anti-government movement.55

Institutionalized Resistance and the Decline of Revolutionary Principles

As we have seen, the JMP had been in dialogue with the government for many years prior to 2011. In late February 2011, they shifted their positions and started overtly supporting the “revolutionary youth” in Change Square. Tribal figures, particularly those linked to the powerful tribe al-Ahmar56, members of al-Hirak and Huthi movements, civil society activists, as well as some members of the ruling party also aligned themselves with the revolutionaries. But as the uprising unfolded, they began to take over important arenas in the square. They controlled access to its central stage, staffed the financial volunteer committee and the organization committee, and coordinated their revolutionary practices with their parties’ leadership rather than with fellow revolutionaries on the square. They used their numerical superiority to impose their parties’ agendas and to undermine the consensus of what youth leaders perceived as the essence of their revolution: “individualism, gender equality, exchange, tolerance, etc.”57 Thus, women in the squares were stifled because powerful and conservative elements within al-Islah began dictating actions that went against calls for equal citizenship, such as banning women from marching, and beating women who marched with men. Al-Islah-affiliated organizing committee made sure gatherings around the square’s main stages were segregated by a fence separating men from women.58 Their organizational skills enabled them to dominate the square, marginalizing the youth who had started the revolution.

Thus, despite their essential contribution to the revolution, the independent revolutionaries were eclipsed in the negotiations leading up to the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, where Salih transferred his powers to Vice-President ‘Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi, in return for immunity from prosecution. The representatives of the JMP presented themselves as the sole negotiators on behalf of the protesters, and regional and international actors treated the JMP as such. After Salih signed the GCC’s implementing mechanism on November 23, 2011 at a ceremony in Saudi Arabia, a national unity government was created, evenly divided between the JMP and Salih’s Congress party, while the independent revolutionaries remained largely marginalized. What the JMP viewed as pragmatism, other protesters saw as betrayal.


While the JMP’s approach was the cause of huge disappointment, numerous members of the 2011 revolutionary movement have persisted to engage in contentious politics, locally and nationally. While the majority of revolutionaries have not had their demands met, their gradual impact on the long-term political, social, and cultural environment remains significant. It is important to remember that the social movements this chapter has analyzed have not erupted overnight. Just as the 2011 uprising was a crystallization of previous forms of contestation, future mobilizations will likely resume as a product of the networks of resistance laid down in 2011. The memory of the revolutionary moment that year is bound to outlive the current political violence in Yemen and the wider Middle East, if it is committed to the historical record.


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                                                                          (2) Zaydiyya, or Zaydism is a Shi’a Muslim school of thought that is named after Zayd ibn Ali, the grandson of Husayn ibn Ali. Followers of the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence are called Zaydis.

                                                                          (4) Day (2010: 4).

                                                                          (5) Worth (2014: 1).

                                                                          (6) Day (2010: 4).

                                                                          (7) Braun (1992: 179).

                                                                          (8) Yadav (2010: 58).

                                                                          (10) Yadav (2010: 60)

                                                                          (12) Yadav (2011: 550).

                                                                          (15) Durac (2011: 343).

                                                                          (16) Al-Gomhoriya (2011: 1).

                                                                          (18) Weir (1997: 1).

                                                                          (19) Haykal (1995: 21).

                                                                          (21) Zaydis believe in the concept of Khurūj that dictates that people must rise in revolt against the unjust, oppressive rulers.

                                                                          (22) International Crisis Group (2009: 2). They self-identify as “Anṣārullah.”

                                                                          (23) In a speech celebrating the revolution of September 26, 1962, then President Saleh said, “War against al-Huthi rebels would continue until uprooting them even if it lasted for ages.”

                                                                          (25) Ibid.

                                                                          (26) Wedeen (2008: 149).

                                                                          (32) Head of Retired Military Consultative Association.

                                                                          (33) Day (2008: 8).

                                                                          (35) Day (2010: 2).

                                                                          (36) al-Fadli was a former mujahid in Afghanistan and a former southern ally of President Salih’s who assisted Salih’s Congress party during its showdown of the YSP in the early 1990s. al-Fadli was also the brother-in-law of General ʿAli Muḥsin, Salih’s former second-in-command.

                                                                          (38) HRW (2009: 1).

                                                                          (41) Manea (2012: 2).

                                                                          (42) These shut-downs occurred in March and August 2009; April, May, and October 2010; and January 2011. For more information see: Al-Ṣaḥwā Net (2009: 1), Yemen Post (April 2010: 1), Building and Wood Workers’ International (2010: 1), Reuters (2014: 1).

                                                                          (48) The term “the youth” was used to identify students and unemployed graduates, generally under 30 years old, and not members of any formal political or student organization, who identified themselves when they began the protests. By using this term, these men and women put themselves at a clear distance from any of the existing political forces, including the opposition alliance “Joint Meeting Parties” (JMP).

                                                                          (51) Ibid.

                                                                          (54) Personal interview conducted with the al-Ṣuraiḥi family on February 27, 2011, Sana’a, Change Square.

                                                                          (55) Internationally the most recognized female Yemeni activist to emerge from this groundswell of feminist activity was Tawakul Karman, a locally controversial figure. She is a journalist, human rights activist, and senior member of the Islah party in her mid-thirties, who called for “A Day of Rage” on February 3, 2011.

                                                                          (56) The family is the head of the Ḥāshid tribal confederation, the most powerful of Yemen’s two tribal confederations. Neither confederation is a monolithic block. For more on al-ʾAḥmar family, see: