Panel 7e The Yemeni Revolt

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Chair: Dr Vincent Durac, Lecturer in Middle East Politics, University College Dublin

Paper 1: Yemen’s Arab Spring – Democratic Opening or Status Quo Maintenance?
Dr Vincent Durac, Lecturer in Middle East Politics, University College Dublin

The departure of Yemeni president al-Salih for Saudi Arabia in June 2011 seemed to herald the fall of yet another autocracy in the region. However, the protest movement was quickly overtaken by mainstream opposition parties and tribal actors, suggesting that Yemen’s future may best be read in terms of the reassertion of pre-existing political dynamics rather than in hopeful expectations of democratic transformation. This paper explores the emergence of the Yemeni protest movement and examines the relationships between the groups that comprise the protest movement and the established opposition parties as well as between the opposition and the regime. It will also examine the policies and motivations of outside actors such as Saudi Arabia, Europe and the US. Finally, the paper will explore what the apparent cooptation of the Yemeni revolt by established political actors and interests tells us about changing patterns of political participation in the country and the Arab world more generally. >> download the paper

Paper 2: Thawra asShab alYemania: Between Intra-regime Rupture and Revolutionary ‘Change’
Fernando Carvajal, PhD candidate, University of Exeter

While many analysts have attributed the origins of the political crisis in Yemen to the Arab Spring, reality points to causes existing prior to December 2010. The political crisis brewed for months prior to the opposition-led protests in Sana’a and Taiz. The conflict began after the process for National Dialogue between the opposition and president Saleh stalled in 2009. This intra-regime conflict was further exacerbated by Saleh’s policies to advance amendments removing obstacles to his re-election in 2013 proved unacceptable to the opposition allied to powerful and rich tribal leaders within the al-Ahmar family.  This paper will address the protest dynamics involved in the ongoing eight-month old political crisis and the underlying popular revolt.

Paper 3: Public Protest and Visions for Change: Voices from Within Yemen’s Peaceful Youth Movement (Al-Haraka Al-Shababiya Al-Silmiya)
Saleem Haddad, Researcher, Saferworld (co-authored with Joshua Rogers)

This paper investigates the way Yemeni youth understand and articulate the causes of the protests in the country, as well as the effects the protest movement have had on Yemeni society and politics. The paper sets out how youth have articulated the causes of protests, focusing on the way they have linked grievances such as corruption, poverty and exclusion to broader issues around political legitimacy and regional identity. It examines youth demands and visions, probing the constructions of modernity and religious, tribal and civic identity underlying calls for a ‘modern civic state’. In an effort to bridge theory and practice, the report concludes with initial conjectures about the impact of the protests on Yemeni society and politics, particularly on the visibility of women and the emergence of a new ‘public space’ for learning and debate in the country’s ‘Change Squares’, and considers the implications of these changes for international policy towards Yemen. >> download the paper

Paper 4: The Political Elite in Yemen as a Cause for Resilience and Breakdown of the Regime
Larissa Alles, PhD candidate in International Relations, University of St. Andrews

Since the popular unrest of the Arab Spring has reached Yemen in early 2011, several popular regime figures have defected from the regime and backed the protesters. President Saleh’s neo-patrimonial way of ruling Yemen enabled him to co-opt the various groups in the country and to integrate them in the circles of elites on the one hand, and to adapt to political parties and a democratic façade on the other. Neopatrimonialism and the cooptation of influential individuals or tribes are an important factor for the regime’s resilience. However, the means to sustain the regime implied hidden costs. One of the causes for the regime’s breakdown now are these costs, as the resources to maintain the system are exhausted. This paper seeks to investigate the role of Yemen’s political relevant elites in the resilience, as well as the breakdown of Saleh’s regime. >> download the  paper

Paper 5: Making Revolution in a Hard Place: Yemen Surrounded by Bomb Makers, Pirates and Arms Smugglers
Dr Susanne Dahlgren, Research Fellow, Academy of Finland, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki

Not only that the Obama Administration considers the Yemeni wing of Al-Qaeda as the worst enemy in its “war against terror”, Yemen is also directly influenced by African Horn conflicts through the chains of smuggling of refugees and arms. Yemen’s regional position is also affected by Saudi Arabia, who does not view positively the prospect of a democratic republic on the Arabian peninsula. These regional factors have delayed radical changes to oust the regime of Ali-Abdullah Saleh. Social forces have in vain tried to convince the outside world about Saleh’s links to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and African Horn conflicts, and about arms smuggling. This paper discusses the challenges to democracy in this corner of the Arab World where best intents of people for a fair rule are confronted by lawlessness of the worst kind and by the multiple geostrategic interests of regional and global players

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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