Oppression of Civil Unrest May Lead to Civil War in Yemen

            A recent article written by Nick Cumming-Bruce discusses an accusation that the Yemen government has been breaking up peaceful protests using grossly excessive force that is estimated to be the cause of hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries since the beginning of the year. The causes of these peaceful demonstrations are numerous and include issues ranging from a faltering economy, utility issues, and, most importantly, the continuing power struggles that are consuming the country. In fact, if the situation does not begin to rectify itself soon, there are fears that civil war may result. Indeed, the government has already lost control of some rather large portions of the country, so this is a very real threat.

            In addition to the accusations of excessive violence in breaking up peaceful protests, there are allegations that the government of Yemen is trying to punish those responsible for the demonstrations and deter future demonstrations. These allegations allege that the government is purposefully cutting off electricity, water, and other utilities to select areas as punishment for this civil disobedience. If true, these allegations could provide a partial explanation for the utility issues that are a source of the riots to begin with. On the other hand, it could just be coincidence.

            In response to these problems, the government of Yemen claims that it is doing everything that it can to rectify the problems. Nevertheless, the people of Yemen have little faith in the government and as such doubt that anything will be done. Considering the allegations that the government is cutting off utilities in response to these protests and that the government has lost control of sizeable parts of the country, this mindset is not surprising.

            On the international perspective, the outside world is taking notice off this problem and international pressure seems to be building. The Office of the High Commission for Human Rights is calling for immediate action in order to prevent future killings in the hope that it will avert the chaos that many fear will lead to civil war. Moreover, a delegation sent by the office had done studies in three major cities that confirm that the large amount of peaceful protest that are occurring throughout the country. As such, it is apparent that the problem is a real one that is not going to solve itself without serious international intervention.

*Source is a New York Times Article by Nick Cumming-Bruce called U.N. Accuses Yemen of Using Deadly Force in Protests


  1. The actions of the Yemen government appear to be quite antagonistic. The government has employed so-called methods of deterrence that run counter to the main goal of the peaceful demonstrations – if the demonstrators want the utility issues resolved, cutting their electricity will not encourage them to stop demonstrating. Rather, these antics will only create greater unrest and possibly lead to more violence. Surely, the government cannot expect to garner favorable results if they met peaceful demonstrations with acts of violence.

    After having the Human Rights Council in Geneva evaluate the human rights record of Yemen in 2009, the Council made a substantial number of recommendations to the government. Yet, it is clear that the government continues to resort to the inhumane treatment of its citizens to try to prove a point. The Yemen government should instead concentrate its efforts on appeasing those peaceful demonstrators’ demands, which may, in effect, quell the resultant economic and power struggles throughout the country.

  2. International intervention needs to be given serious consideration in this instance. The Yemen government’s proclamations are not consistent with their actions or with their perceived goals of punishing protestors. If the Yemen people perceive the power outages and cut off of other utilities as intentional, the Yemen government needs to offset these perceptions. It does not matter if the utility outages are a coincidence, as long as the people continue to perceive the outages as intentional, the protests will continue. International intervention seems to be necessary in Yemen; the population has repeatedly demonstrated disappointment and distrust of the government. Additionally, the Yemen government has been unable to steady the protestor’s concerns, rather, the evidence points to the Yemen government further instigating the protestors. Although the international community should always be careful before imposing itself into the affairs of a nation, in this situation waiting too long to intervene could prove to be a costly mistake.

  3. I agree with Amanjit that international intervention is necessary in Yemen, and that waiting too long to intervene could be a grave mistake. Shortly after President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to the country calling for a cease-fire, his forces escalated attacks on the opposition on Saturday, leaving numerous dead in the capital city of Sana. According to the New York Times, “sniper fire and mortar shells rained down on the square here where peaceful protesters have gathered for months to demand Mr. Saleh’s ouster, killing at least 17 and forcing hundreds to flee, according to doctors and witnesses.” In the past week alone, over one hundred people have died in the fighting in and around the capital. In one sentence Mr. Saleh continues to claim to want to extend an olive branch and “carry the dove of peace.” Yet, there has been no sign of military withdrawal or a cease of attacks on peaceful protestors by those loyal to Mr. Saleh. One simply cannot take Mr. Saleh at his word. Even though the president recently confirmed that his deputy remained authorized to sign a transfer-of-power agreement that would lead to early presidential elections, and that he remained committed to the Gulf initiative, it is possible he is just giving his people and the international community lip service.

  4. Only came across this article recently but it is interesting. It seems like things are still bad in Yemen with recent assassinations and bombings and the fighting continues. In fact, Yemen seems to be following a dangerous path of a failed state. I must agree with Christopher and Amanjit above that international intervention should take place in some form but it seems a long way off.

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