U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Yemen, November 1995
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Prepared and released by the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs,
Office of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, UAE, and 
Yemen Affairs

November 1995
Official Name: Republic of Yemen



Area: 527,831 sq. km. (203,796 sq. mi.); about the size of California 
and Pennsylvania combined.
Cities: Capital -- Sanaa. Other cities -- Aden, Taiz, Hodeida, and al-
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.


Nationality: Noun and adjective -- Yemeni(s).
Population (1995 est.): 15 million.
Annual growth rate: 3.7 percent.
Ethnic group: Arab.
Religion: Islam.
Language: Arabic.
Education: Attendance (ages 6-15, 1994 est.) -- total 57.4 percent, 
including 79.4 percent of males, 33.9 percent of females. Literacy 
(1994 est.) -- 45 percent.
Health: Infant mortality rate -- 138/1,000 live births. Life expectancy 
52 yrs.
Work force (by sector): Agriculture -- 53 percent, public services -- 17 
percent, manufacturing -- 4 percent, construction -- 7 percent; work 
force as percentage of total population -- 25 percent.


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 -- 
301-seat parliament. Judicial -- the constitution calls for an 
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
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
National holiday: May 22 (Unity Day).
Flag: Three horizontal bands -- red, white, and black.


GDP (1994 est.): $4 billion.
Per capita GDP (1994 est.): $280.
Natural resources: oil, natural gas, fish, rock salt, minor deposits of 
coal and copper.
Agriculture (est. 18 percent of GDP): Products -- qat (a shrub 
containing natural amphetamine), coffee, cotton, fruits, vegetables, 
cereals, livestock and poultry, hides, skins, tobacco, honey. Arable
land (est ) -- 5 percent.
Industry (est. 7.5 percent of GDP): Types -- petroleum refining, 
mining, food processing, building materials.
Trade (1994 est.): Exports -- $1.81 billion: crude petroleum, refined 
oil products, hides, fish, fruits, vegetables, cotton, coffee, biscuits, 
plastic pipes. Major markets -- United States, Western Europe, South 
Korea, Saudi Arabia. Imports -- $1.88 billion: cereals, feed grains. 
Foodstuffs, machinery, petroleum products, transportation equipment. 
Major suppliers -- Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, EC countries, China, 
Russia and other Newly Independent States, United States.
Exchange rate (October 1995): Official -- 50 Rial per US$1. Market -- 
100 to 120 Rials per US$1.


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 Negroid 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.


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 Qamal 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

The governments of the PDRY and the YAR had declared in 1972 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, 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 Salih) 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 Salih 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 "at-large" 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 multi-party 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 Salih announced a 
general amnesty which applied to everyone except a list of sixteen 
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 Salem Al- Bidh, 
Haydar Abu Bakr Al-Attas, Abd Al-Rahman Ali Al-Jifri, and Salih 
Munassar Al-Siyali) for misappropriation of official funds. Others on 
the list of sixteen 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. Isilaah 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 Salih was elected by 
Parliament on October 1, 1994 to a five-year term. The constitution 
provides that henceforth the President will be elected by popular vote 
from at least two candidates selected by the legislature. The next 
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 1997.

Principal Government Officials

President--Ali Abdallah Salih
Vice President--Abd Al-Rab Mansur Hadi
Prime Minister--Abd Al-Aziz Abd Al-Ghani
Deputy Prime Minister--Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Anisi
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs--Abd Al-Karim Al-
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Planning and Development--Abd 
Al-Qadir Bajamal
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry, Minister of Oil and 
Mineral Resources--Muhammad Said Al-Attar
Ambassador to the United States--Moshin Al-Alaini
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 


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 (a shrub whose leaves contain a 
natural amphetamine and are chewed for a mild stimulating effect) 
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 1950's) 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 

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 
negotiations with the international monetary fund about a structural 
adjustment program. The World Bank is eager to reactivate over $300 
million in project assistance and is willing to add new funds once an 
agreement with the IMF is implemented. The IMF program includes 
major structural reforms, including floating the currency, reducing the 
budget deficit, cutting subsidies, and rationalizing the civil service. 
The Yemeni Government has agreed to the reform program, but still has 
concerns about its implementation. Yemen has considered a buy back 
of its estimated $6.5 billion Soviet debt. Some military equipment is 
still purchased from former East Bloc states and China, but now on a 
cash basis.

Following a minor discovery in 1982 in the south, an American 
company found an oil basin near Marib in 1984. 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 180,000 
barrels per day in 1995. 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 
approximately $1 billion.

Marib oil contains associated natural gas. Proven reserves of 10-13 
trillion cubic feet could sustain an LNG export project. Medium-term 
economic prospects for the country depend upon the outcome of the 
gas export project and plans to upgrade port facilities at Aden. In 
September 1995 the Yemeni Government signed an agreement that 
designated total of France to be the lead company for an LNG export 
project after discussions with American companies were unsuccessful. 
Progress continues in making Aden a free zone and finalizing plans to 
construct a modern container port and other facilities in Aden.


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's in north Yemen. 
Following the September 1962 revolution, the Yemen Arab Republic 
became closely allied with and heavily dependent on 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 1970's and 1980's.

In February 1989, north Yemen joined Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt in 
forming 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 

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. Following a period of 
tension over the Saudi-Yemeni border in early 1995, negotiators met to 
discuss outstanding issues, President Salih visited Saudi Arabia, and 
Saudi-Yemeni negotiations on the border and other matters began.


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, 1959 and 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 
AID 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 
Sanaa by Secretary of State William P. Rogers in July 1972, and a new 
AID 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 Salih visited the United States in January 1990. 
The United States had a $42 million Agency for International 
Development (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 USG 
scholarships to study in the region and in the United States. There was 
a Peace Corps program with about 50 volunteers. The US 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 re-established diplomatic 
relations on April 30, 1990, only three weeks before the announcement 
of unification.

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 and the 
Peace Corps program. AID levels dropped in FY-91 to $2.9 million, 
but food assistance through the PL 480 and export enhancement 
programs continued. 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, has slowly increased to 
$8.5 million in FY-95.

Principal US Officials:

Ambassador--David G. Newton
Deputy Chief of Mission--Margaret Scobey (arrives July 1996)

The address of the US Embassy in Yemen is P.O. Box 22347, Sanaa, 
Republic of Yemen. 


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