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Situation in Yemen more complex than ever

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Map of the Yemen civil war in 2017.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Professor Mustafa Bahran, also a former Yemen Minister of Electricity and Energy talked about the complex and difficult situation of the Yemen civil war on Tuesday at the University of Oklahoma.

Bahran believes the Yemen conflict is different from the other conflicts ongoing in the region such as in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yemen has a historic place in the Arabic peninsula dating back over 3,000 years and represents today about 40 percent of the population (29 million of inhabitants) in the peninsula. More importantly, 50 percent of the Yemenis are under 15 years old and only 30 percent are urban.

“It is a logistical nightmare for the government to bring services such as water, electricity schools and roads,” Bahran said.

Bahran said Yemen was on the way of democracy with a new constitution approved by all the political and tribal parties until one of these groups called the Houthis (members of the Shi’a minority in north Yemen, representing 40 percent of the Yemen population), organized a coup by overthrowing the President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in January 2015.

“They wanted not to be a part of the government, they wanted to take it all,” Bahran said, adding Hadi eventually fled to Saudi Arabia and claimed back his power that leads to the military intervention of Saudi under the name “Operation Decisive Storm.”

“Thousands of homes have been destroyed,” Bahran said. “No one is winning, everyone is losing, but the biggest losers are the Americans and the Yemenis.”

Bahran said the Yemen governmental coalition against the Houthis is composed of various groups who don’t like each other. The governmental collation includes the legitimate government army, the Islamic Brotherhood, political movement and paramilitary organizations, warlords and local tribal.

Bahran said the Houthis have a similar collation, as the descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, they believe they have God in their side such as the Islamic Brotherhood. And also a legitimate political government with Ali Abdullah Saleh, former Yemen president during of 32 years, who has a large network around Yemen. The other groups are the Hadramis groups and also the warlords.

“Warlords are an important part of why this war keeps going on,” Bahran said, adding terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida are partially controlled by both sides. But the civil war eventually is helping ISIS and Al-Qaida to expand in Yemen.

Then Bahran noted it has been proven that the Islamic Brotherhood is selling arms to the Houthis and Saleh is supporting some groups of his enemy Hadi, making the civil war even more complicated.

However, Bahran pointed out one of the reasons of this conflict is since more than hundreds of years, Yemen has continuously been ruled by a person from the north and that President Hadi was the first ruler from the south, which the north didn’t appreciate.

“But it is not going to work anymore, Yemen will not be ruled except democratically,” Bahran said, noting there are numerous reasons why each faction is fighting in the Yemen civil war including local, regional and international powers. The other reasons cited by Bahran are North Yemen against South, Americans against terrorists, Saleh against Hadi, Yemen against Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), a proxy war between Iran and KSA and games of influence between the different countries of the Arabic peninsula.

“Everyone is losing except Iran for now,” Bahran said. “Nor party in this conflict is clean.”

Bahran thinks the only way out is a political agreement backed by the regional powers and if necessary with the help of a super power such as the U.S.

“The two sides are claiming the name of God, but I wish God would choose the people,” Bahran said.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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