Monday, August 3, 2020

Yemen's Multilayered War: The First Civil War of Yemen

This article is by

Share this article

The tribals of South Yemen | Source: Tribes of the World via Flickr

This is the 2nd part of a short explainer article series on the current crisis in Yemen. To read the 1st part of the series click on the link.

After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1968,  Yemen existed as two countries — North Yemen and South Yemen.  These two countries united in 1990, after several years of conflict with one another.

Unified Yemen: Simmering discontent between North & South

A unified government was formed and the work on constitution progressed, however the relations continued to be strained between the two regions. It's important to note that unification was finally achieved after the defeat of the former Marxist state of South Yemen at the hand of North Yemen with active collaboration of Saudi Arabia.

South got a raw deal in the post unification reconstitution and re construction of the country. The government controlled lands, enterprises and other resources in the South were confiscated and given to the ruling elites belonging to the North. However some political representation and economic benefits were given to the southern elites as well.

1st Elections of Unified Yemen: Cracks in unity

The first elections to elect a new parliament of unified Yemen began in 1993. This election was won by the pro-Unification group led by the former President of North Yemen, Abdullah Saleh. The Yemen Socialist Party (YSP) which represented the interests of former South Yemen, was able to win only 54 of the 301 seats.

After losing the democratic election, the leader of YSP, Ali Salim Al-Beidh, withdrew to his base in Aden. He refused to return to the capital unless his grievances of economic marginalization of the south and violence against his party members did not end. This conflict among the ruling elite impacted the general security situation and created an opportunity for the tribal leaders to make a space for themselves as well.

This sense of marginalisation and victimhood of Southern leadership and assertiveness of tribal leadership created a fertile ground for the first civil war of Yemen.

The First Civil War of Unified Yemen

Unlike the political forces, the armed forces of North and South Yemen were not unified at the time of political unification of the country. The political differences between the pro-unification forces and the southern faction led by YSP reached the Northern and Southern armed forces as well. The political infighting soon turned into armed conflict where the armed forces used heavy equipment and air power against each other.

Southern faction leaders withdrew from the reunification and on May 21, 1994, established the Democratic Republic of Yemen (DRY). However they failed to win recognition from the international community. After heavy fighting in the southern part, the government forces captured Aden on July 7, 1994. This led to the collapse of resistance and thousands of political and military leaders left the country. They tried to revive the secessionist movement from Saudi Arabia, but failed to make any impact.

The Ceasefires were called from nearly all sides, including the USA and Russia. The war finally ended in 1994, with Abdullah Saleh being elected as president after an amnesty signing with the Yemen Socialist Party leaders.

However, the YSP was left toothless post-elections, a grievance that would later lead to the forming of the Southern Seperatist Movement (also known as al-Hirak) in 2007.

Keep tune in for the 3rd part of the series.

Link to the first part.

Subscribe to the Global Views 360 mailing list for the weekly updates.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 18, 2020 6:46 PM

Bhagat Singh: The Man, The Life, And The Beliefs

Bhagat Singh is one of the ‘big names’ immortalised in the history of India’s freedom struggle and eternally cherished even after almost ninety years of his martyrdom. What makes him stand out is his popularity among the masses being almost on par with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his beliefs and actions being diametrically opposite to theirs.

Of the freedom fighters who remain mainstream in today’s India— a crowd predominantly made up of politicians with center or right of centre leanings, Bhagat Singh occupies a relatively lonely spot as a young, staunchly left-wing revolutionary who outrightly rejected Gandhi’s philosophy, and preferred direct action over politics.

Newspaper headline after Central Legislative Assembly non-lethal bombing

Bhagat Singh is most commonly and widely remembered in association with an incident where he, along with his friend and comrade B.K. Dutt dropped non-lethal smoke bombs into the Central Legislative Assembly from its balcony in 1929. They also scattered leaflets by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), which he was a major part of and was aided by in orchestrating the bombings. He is said to have been inspired by French anarchist Auguste Vaillant, who had bombed the Chamber of Deputies in Paris in 1893.

The bombing gathered widespread negative reaction due to the use of violence, especially from those who supported the Gandhian method. While Bhagat Singh and the HSRA wanted to protest exploitative legislatures such as the Public Safety Act and the Trades Disputes Bill, it is also widely accepted that they additionally intended to use the drama and public attention of the ensuing trial to garner attention to socialist and communist causes. Bhagat Singh and Dutt did not escape under the cover of panic and smoke despite the former carrying a pistol, and waited for the police to find and arrest them. During the trial Bhagat Singh frequently chanted a variety of slogans, such as ‘Inquilab Zindabad,’ which is even today often raised in protests across India.  

March 25th Newspaper carrying the news about execution of Bhagat Singh | Source: Tribune India

However, this was not the trial that ended in Bhagat Singh receiving his execution sentence. Before the Assembly bombings, Bhagat Singh had been involved in the shooting of police officer John Saunders, in connection to the death of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. At that time he and his associates had escaped, but after Bhagat Singh was awarded a life sentence for the Assembly bombing, a series of investigations led to his rearrest as part of the Saunders murder case. It was this trial— generally regarded as unjust— that led to his much protested execution sentence.

Bhagat Singh was hanged to death on the eve of March 23rd, 1931 and he was just twenty-three years old.

Despite the criticism he received for his actions, his execution sentence was widely opposed and many attempts were made to challenge it. In fact, his execution came on the eve of the Congress party’s annual convention, as protests against it worsened. He was memorialised nationwide as a martyr, and is often addressed with the honorific Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh.

Apart from being a socialist, Bhagat Singh was attracted to communist and anarchist causes as well. In ‘To Young Political Workers,’ his last testament before his death, he called for a “socialist order” and a reconstruction of society on a “new, i.e, Marxist basis.” He considered the government “a weapon in the hand of the ruling class”, which is reflected in his belief that Gandhian philosophy only meant the “replacement of one set of exploiters for another.” Additionally, he wrote a series of articles on anarchism, wanting to fight against mainstream miscontrusions of the word and explain his interest in anarchist ideology.

Bipin Chandra, who wrote the introduction to Why I am an Atheist by Bhagat Singh | Source: Wikimedia

While writing the introduction to Bhagat Singh’s remarkable essay Why I am an Atheist in 1979, Late Bipan Chandra described the Marxist leaning of Bhagat Singh and his associates in the following way;

Bhagat Singh was not only one of India’s greatest freedom fighters and revolutionary socialists, but also one of its early Marxist thinkers and ideologues. Unfortunately, this last aspect is relatively unknown with the result that all sorts of reactionaries, obscurantists and communalists have been wrongly and dishonestly trying to utilise for their own politics and ideologies the name and fame of Bhagat Singh and his comrades such as Chandra Shekhar Azad.”

Bhagat Singh is often admired and celebrated for his dedication to the cause of liberation. However his socialist, communist and anarchist beliefs were suppressed by the successive governments in Independent India. This in a way is the suppression of a revolutionary who has the potential to inspire, unite and motivate the growing population of a spectrum of activists all over India, in direct response to the fast-spreading divisiveness and intolerance in the country, often patronised by the groups and organizations professing the right-wing fascist ideology.

Bhagat Singh’s dreams of a new social order live on, not just in his writings, but also reflected in the hearts of every activist, protester, and dissenting citizen. The fight for freedom, revolution, Inquilab, may have changed in meaning, but it is far from over.

Read More