A Cry for Help
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Any unrest in south Yemen is often immediately linked to al Qaeda. This is not wholly without reason—for much of the past two years, local fighters affiliated with al Qaeda effectively controlled southern towns. But the anxiety over the current situation in the South ultimately has little to do with the infamous terrorist franchise. Rather, the real concern is that escalating regional tensions could turn into a civil war that splits Yemen apart.
Initially, most Yemenis hailed the 1990 unification of the South and North as a historic triumph. But tensions quickly emerged. Leaders from the South, formerly known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) attempted to secede in 1994. They were crushed, but their grievances continued to mount over the last 20 years, culminating in the 2007 birth of the Southern Movement, or al-Herak, a fractious group representing a number of factions aiming for the return of regional autonomy in the former PDRY. Herakis say that government crackdowns in the South have fueled the discontent, leading increasing numbers of southerners to call for complete secession. In 2011, the nationwide protests against Yemen’s longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh created a power vacuum that has allowed suppressed southern activists to emerge from underground. Graffiti of the PDRY flag now coats walls in Aden, and once-persecuted Herak leaders now operate with relative impunity.
- The Yemen Times
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