Yemen on verge of collapse as president flees

Fall from Aden: Militiamen loyal to the Yemini president in the town of Aden this week © PA

Rebels in Yemen have advanced upon the major city of Aden, while there are rumours that the President has fled the country. Is it time for the Western media to pay more attention?

Yemen is a country in crisis, fractured by a bewildering array of combatant groups violently struggling for power. Thousands of citizens have been displaced, hundreds have been killed and 200,000 children have been affected by school closures or attacks.

Naturally, then, the Telegraph, Financial Times and Guardian all ran with Jeremy Clarkson’s job status. Yemen barely featured. As the country edges closer to a full-blown emergency, it may well be time that Western media outlets give greater consideration to the escalating crisis on the Arabian peninsula.

Yemen has been a troubled country for some time. Al-Qaeda and IS (so-called ‘Islamic State’) are both active there, and there are a number of claimants to the presidency. There are, however, two main competitors for control.

President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi is recognised internationally as the legitimate leader of the country. As President since 2012, Hadi is backed by the Yemeni military and police forces. He is also strongly supported by Saudi Arabia.

On the opposing side are the Houthis, the most significant rebel group in Yemen. The Houthis belong to the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam, and have been expanding their control over the country for months. There is some evidence that the Houthis are supported by Iran.

In September 2014, the Houthis took the capital city of Sanaa, causing President Hadi to flee to the city of Aden in southern Yemen. Now, after pleading for foreign military support, President Hadi has been forced to abandon Aden. Reports suggest he has left the country. Effectively, the Yemeni government appears to be on the brink of collapse.

With Saudi Arabia’s staunch support of Hadi and Iran’s apparent backing of the Houthis, it is possible that events in Yemen can cause increased tensions in the Middle Eastern region more broadly. Despite all of this, Western media have still only paid cursory attention to the situation in Yemen. Many major news sources have relegated the story to a middle page, while others still have left the story out entirely.

Breaking bad news

Many argue that local issues are more important than international ones like the crisis in Yemen. After all, the UK has a whole host of domestic problems to attend to. International crises are important, but why should local media be focusing significantly upon them when there are similarly important issues at home?

Western media must pay more attention to international news, others respond. International events like the one in Yemen can have global repercussions, and learning about them is important for us as global citizens. Without comprehensive media coverage, how can we properly understand the world we live in?

You Decide

  1. Would you be more or less likely to follow the news if it included more international issues?
  2. Should the UK intervene in international conflicts like the crisis in Yemen?

Activities

  1. Divide into groups. Pretend that you’re planning a news program, and the three big stories of the day are: an international crisis, a celebrity death and a political controversy. In what order would you run the stories?
  2. Research the recent history of Yemen and write a paragraph explaining why the country is now in crisis.

Some People Say...

“I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world.”

Eduardo Galeano

What do you think?

Q & A

Why Should I Care About the Yemen Crisis?
Aside from the important political implications between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the potential spillover effects in the Middle East, there is a significant humanitarian cost to the crisis. Many people are being displaced, there is a great deal of violence and human beings are suffering. That is important wherever it is happening.
So, should I just not listen to the news?
That’s going too far. Stories like this are usually reported, but often they are buried beneath the more attention-grabbing headlines. When you look at the news, try to go beyond the front-page stories and critically assess whether you think the news is representative of the world. If not, look for other news outlets which publish a more diverse set of stories.

Word Watch

Yemen
A small, desert state on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. Despite being the poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen is important because it sits on the strategically significant Bab al-Mandab Strait, through which much of the world’s oil shipments pass.
IS (so-called ‘Islamic State’)
An Islamist extremist group which has seized large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq. They employ notoriously brutal tactics, and have launched operations in a number of countries across the Middle East and parts of Africa.
Recognised internationally
When one state recognises another it is known as diplomatic recognition. When this happens, a state acknowledges the other country’s government as legitimate and legal. Governments not internationally recognised are usually considered illegitimate.
Shia Islam
The Shia or the Shiites are a sect in Islam constituting roughly one-tenth of all Muslims. Shiites believe that Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali was his rightful successor and that Ali was cheated when authority was transferred to others instead of him.

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