Yemen: The Last Imam and Future of Zaidism

Last year Yemen celebrated 50 years since the republic was established via military coup. Political systems and the distribution of power they involve do not just disappear, they tend to replicate themselves in disguised forms and it would hardly be a surprise to find that this has been the case in Yemen since then. The republic replaced a Zaidi Imamate – a Sharia state system in which the legitimate rulers came from an elite class of descendants of the Prophet, referred to as al-hashimiyyeen, or the Hashemis. However, the republic only really found its feet, after a decade of instability, with the ascendance of Ali Abdullah Saleh to the presidency in 1978. Continue reading Yemen: The Last Imam and Future of Zaidism

Islamists Empowered: Back to the Future

With the fall of Hosni Mubarak, victory in legislative elections and the presidential vote, and now the approval via referendum of a new constitution, Islamists have begun the work of putting their renaissance project into practice.

Unlike Salafism, which dreams of a recreation of the pre-colonial moment, political Islam has aimed more to repatch together the Islamic state but in an unambiguously modern, post-colonial context. The Brotherhood does not aim to return clerics to man a reestablished classical Sharia court system, rather it seeks to distribute the dominion of Sharia via parliament, legislation and an advisory role for clerics via Al-Azhar. Laymen play a key role in the process of Islamicization that they would not have had before the irruption of Western hegemony and modernity – something alien, for example, to Wahhabi Salafism which simply recognizes the sovereign powers of the temporal ruler in return for the clerics’ advisory role in policy and control of courts, mosques, education and their own coercive force (‘the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice’). Continue reading Islamists Empowered: Back to the Future

Al Qaeda goes underground in Yemen against U.S.-driven crackdown

By Andrew Hammond

ADEN | Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:05pm EDT

(Reuters) – A U.S.-backed military onslaught may have driven Islamist militants from towns in Yemen they seized last year, but many have regrouped into “sleeper cells” threatening anew the areas they vacated, security officials and analysts say.

Soldiers are seen in a building damaged during fighting between the army and al Qaeda-linked militants in Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Yemen's southern province of Abyan, after the army retook it from the militants June 18, 2012. REUTERS-Khaled Abdullah Continue reading Al Qaeda goes underground in Yemen against U.S.-driven crackdown

Yemeni debate over drones emerges after Saleh’s fall

By Andrew Hammond

SANAA | Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:30am EDT

(Reuters) – Yemen’s interim president has won U.S. praise for cooperating in a war on al Qaeda, but his recent public support for drone strikes that sometimes kill civilians could undermine his domestic popularity and stir sympathy for militants. Continue reading Yemeni debate over drones emerges after Saleh’s fall

Wary Yemen refugees returning to former Qaeda-run towns

By Andrew Hammond

JAAR, Yemen | Wed Oct 17, 2012 9:00pm IST

(Reuters) – Yemenis who fled the fighting after al Qaeda militants occupied their home towns are now under pressure to go home, but many are hesitating for fear of the group’s lingering influence despite assurances that the area east of Aden is now safe.

Around 150,000 people left Jaar and Zinjibar after militants calling themselves the Ansar al-Sharia swept in between March and May 2011, taking advantage of a security vacuum during an uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Continue reading Wary Yemen refugees returning to former Qaeda-run towns

South Yemen separatists see new chance after Saleh’s demise

By Andrew Hammond

ADEN | Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:25pm EDT

(Reuters) – Yemeni separatist leaders, exploiting a weakening of central authority and freer political atmosphere since a national uprising last year, have returned from exile to rally support for reviving the state of South Yemen.

Secessionists in the south, Houthi Islamist tribal rebels in the north and al Qaeda militants all benefited from the popular upheaval in the Arabian Peninsula country that ousted veteran strongman president Ali Abdullah Saleh in February. Continue reading South Yemen separatists see new chance after Saleh’s demise

FEATURE-Houthi rebels seen gaining new influence in Yemen

By Andrew Hammond

SANAA, Oct 3 (Reuters) – When riots erupted this month over an anti-Islam film made in California, Houthi rebels, long confined to remote corners of Yemen by then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, covered the capital Sanaa in posters, banners and graffiti denouncing the United States.

Western diplomats and Sunni Islamists were taken aback by the sudden show of strength in a city from which the Shi’ite rebel group had long been banished. Continue reading FEATURE-Houthi rebels seen gaining new influence in Yemen

Analysis: After U.S. embassy attack, West uneasy over Saleh’s role

By Andrew Hammond

SANAA | Mon Oct 1, 2012 6:51am EDT

(Reuters) – Seven months after he reluctantly handed over the presidency, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s continuing sway over Yemen is worrying Gulf neighbors and Western nations who fear that the political transition could descend into chaos. Continue reading Analysis: After U.S. embassy attack, West uneasy over Saleh’s role

Nearly half of Yemenis go hungry post-revolt, says WFP

By Andrew Hammond

SANAA, Sept 30 | Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:21pm EDT

(Reuters) – Nearly half of Yemenis go to bed hungry every night as political instability compounds a global food and fuel price surge, giving the Arabian Peninsula state the world’s third-highest rate of child malnutrition, the World Food Programme said on Sunday. Continue reading Nearly half of Yemenis go hungry post-revolt, says WFP

Yemeni leader offers conditional dialogue with al Qaeda

By Andrew Hammond

SANAA | Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:14pm EDT

(Reuters) – Yemen’s president offered dialogue to Islamist militants including al Qaeda on Wednesday, but said they must agree first to put down weapons and reject support from abroad. Continue reading Yemeni leader offers conditional dialogue with al Qaeda