South Yemen

Yemen has been news lately There are three main issues related to Yemen. One is the Shiite rebellion in the North. Other is the so called separatist movement in the South. Finally Yemen also has it's own Al qaeda problem. One mustn't forget that the Alqaeda leader Bin Ladin is from Yemen. This article looks at the so called separatist movement in the south.

In 1950s Yemen consisted of North Yemen (called Yemen) and South Yemen. South Yemen was occupied by British. For British South Yemen with it's capital Aden was a strategic asset. Aden is a major harbor guarding the Red sea entrance. British occupied South Yemen in the beginning of  20th century. There was a naval presence in Aden. In addition South Yemen had oil fields and Aden had important Oil refinery. After Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the Suez canal , Aden was a very important asset to Britain and United States.

In 1950s North Yemen was a Shiite monarchy. In 1962 the monarchy was overthrown and a republican government was established. Egypt send troops to support the republican government against monarchists supported by Saudi Arabia. As such North Yemen became a battle ground between nationalist Egypt and pro western Saudi Arabia.

In the meantime nationalists in South Yemen organized themselves to fight against British occupation. Nationalists were led by two organizations . First one was FLOSY ( Front for the liberation of occupied South Yemen), Other one was NLF(National Liberation Front). FLOSY was supported by the republican government in the North and Egypt. It favored union with North Yemen. NLF was a progressive liberation movement and supported gradual merger with North.

NLF carried out extensive guerrilla campaign against the British forces. British occupying forces reacted with vicious suppression. Struggle was similar in intensity to Algeria. NLF with it's progressive program had the support of the  masses. Struggle intensified in 60s and by 1968, British agreed to hand over power to the nationalists. It is important to note that South Yemen was the first British colony to achieve independence by armed struggle. After British left power struggle broke out between NLF and FLOSY and NLF routed FLOSY easily. NLF after taking over South Yemen establish the first marxist government in Arab world called Democratic Socialist Republic of Yemen. NLF with it's socialist program carried out far reaching change of society. Women were emancipated . Education was made free. Oil industry was  nationalised. By 1970s South Yemen was the most progressive and state within arab world.

Externally South Yemen established close relationship with Socialist world and progressive countries. It became the base for Palestinian liberation movements and other liberation movements around the world including Srilankan Tamil movements.It's relationship with North Yemen was cordial. South Yemen and North Yemen had two different political systems. South Yemen was progressive and North Yemen was conservative. Both were members of Arab league.

Although South Yemen was economically self sufficient it was dependent on Soviet Union in terms of Heavy industry and Refinery. As such when Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, South Yemen was one of the countries affected by the collapse. NLF government entered into negotiations with North Yemen and agreed to the Union. Both states were united as Republic of Yemen. From the start the Union did not work. South Yemen with it's strong working class based in Aden and progressive population could not work with conservative and sometime fundamentalist government in the North. In addition South Yemen army was not amalgamated into the National Army.

Within two years South Yemen rebelled and the rebellion was crushed by the Yemeni government with the support of Saudi Arabia. In addition Yemeni governement gave tacturn support to  sunni islamic fundermentalism.  Majority of South Yemenis are Sunnis. By diverting the national aspirations of South Yemenese towards Islamic fundermentalism Yemeni authorities hope to dampen the progressive aspirations of South Yemen. However this strategy backfired after Alqaeda bombed US destroyer Cole at Aden. US government and western countries started applying pressure on Yemeni government to crack down on Alqaeda.Government became more pro western.

During the 1990s and 2000s Yemeni government moved North Yemenis to south to take over the industry and administration. South Yemenis were discriminated in jobs and education. In addition thousands of former south yemen soldiers were unemployed.

Last year South yemeni ex soldiers started demonstrating against the Yemeni authorities calling for the amalgamation into Yemeni armed forces. Peaceful demonstrations were brutally suppressed. Demonstrations have spread to other sectors of South Yemeni society and the whole country is in a state of rebellion.
Basically South Yemeni people want the reestablishment of South Yemeni state. Struggle is soon becoming a popular struggle with ex soldiers providing the armed component. Over the coming months and years struggle will intensify. Unless Yemeni government carries out radical changes , formation of an independent South Yemen is inevitable.One can draw the analogy to East Timor which was first occupied by Portugeese and then by Indonesia.

April 2010


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