Yemen History and Literature
Demography and economic geography. – State of southwestern Asia, in the Arabian Peninsula. The Yemeni population has grown by about one third since 2004, reaching 24,968,508 residents in 2014, according to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), thanks to the consistent fertility rate (4.09 in 2014). Social indicators are strongly negative for access to water, which is difficult for 45% of the population, and for malnutrition, which affects 43% of children under the age of five (third country in the world). No significant progress has been made in the past decade. Yemen derives 25% of GDP and 62% of the budget available from oil extraction. Since 2006, the country has been trying to diversify its economic activities, starting with natural gas liquefaction plants and thanks to significant international aid (6 billion euros in 2012). The unemployment problem has further aggravated. Following the outbreak of the civil war in 2015, the country plunged into a dramatic crisis:
History. – According to Softwareleverage, the contemporary history of the Yemen was long influenced by the figure of ῾Alī ῾Abd Allāh Ṣāleḥ, absolute dominus of the national political scene, first in the role of president of the Yemen of the North (1978-90) and then in that of head of State of the unified country (1990-2012), before leaving power to his deputy Abd Rabbuh Manṣūr Hādī under the pressure of popular protests.
At the base of Ṣāleḥ’s resignation there was a series of internal political causes (patronage management of power, absence of the state in the peripheral areas, poor socio-economic conditions, corruption and malfeasance) increased by the revolutionary fervor of the Arab springs of 2011, which radiated in a few months in all over the Middle East. The factors linked to violence and security linked to the penetration of al-Qā῾ida in the Arabian peninsula (al-Qā῾ida in the Arabian peninsula, AQAP) along the coast of the Red Sea and in the territories also contributed to fuel the internal crisis. East of the capital Ṣan῾ā᾽, to the confessional groups such as that of the Shiite-zaydite ḥūthī in the north and, finally, to the independence / secessionist movements of the Aden region and the aḍramawt to the south and south-east of the country. Under the pressure, therefore, of at least three levels of political instability that feed each other, the demonstrations and protests turned into boundless violence little by little into a civil conflict. The fear that this situation could turn into a new civil war put Saudi Arabia in the position of having to take the field to prevent the conflict from spreading within its borders. After a long mediation process conducted by Riyāḍ with the opposition forces and those loyal to Ṣāleḥ, the Yemeni president accepted the Saudi safe conduct in exchange for a handover of power in favor of his deputy Hādī. Elected president in February 2012.
The emergence of new divisions linked to the different visions of the state within the Conference of Wise Men in charge of drafting the new Yemeni Fundamental Charter, the explosion of new popular protests following the cut in fuel subsidies, as well as the Qaidist attacks and the The advance of the ḥūthī militants from the North created new political conditions of instability and violence: under the pressure of the ḥūthī, who occupied Ṣūthī in September 2014, Hādī resigned in January 2015, then withdrawing them in the following February and taking the lead of a government in exile in Riyāḍ, which returned to Yemen – in the city of Aden – in September. To counter the pro-Sikh militias ḥūthī, apparently supported by Irān, the Sunni blockade started, in March of the same year, civil war, with attacks from both sides that did not spare even the Yemeni historical and cultural heritage and the old city of Ṣan῾ā᾽, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the international level, the main lines of foreign policy of the Yemen in the first decade of the 21st century. they continued to be based on maintaining good bilateral relations, especially in matters of security and intelligence, both with the United States and with Saudi and Omani neighbors.
Literature. – The cultural landscape of Yemen is deeply affected by the economic, political and social events that have affected the country in recent years. Alongside a persistent tradition that is mainly expressed in poetic production, we are witnessing the development of a literature, especially as regards the genre of fiction and novel, open to experimentation and renewal thanks to which many Yemeni authors have also established themselves internationally. The practice of a popular poem following political events is still very widespread. This type of poetry, a powerful means of communication, serves as a critique of political power, which has its official cantors, and also as an instrument of social control when it comes, for example, to defend national unity against the drifts of Islamic extremism and terrorism that have bloodied the country in recent years. This is the case of the poet Amīn al-Mašriqī (b.1972) whose lines of denunciation, such as those composed in the aftermath of al-Qā῾ida’s suicide attack on a French oil tanker off the Yemeni coast in 2002, have made one of the most followed voices in the country. The pioneer of modern poetry is ῾Abd al-῾Azīz al-Maqāliḥ (b.1937) whose verses introduce a stylistic and content modernity into the country’s literary history, while one of the most committed and original poets is Šawqī Šafīq (n. 1955), who also dedicated some vivid verses to physical pleasures. Among the most effective voices of female poetry stand out those of Fāṭimah al-῾Ašbī (b.1959), Nabīlah Zubayr (b.1964), Ibtisām al-Mutawakkil (b.1970), Hudà al῾Aṭṭās (b.1970), Hudà Ablān (b.1971), often transgressive and original, in whose verses the difficulties of women emerge in the social context of the country. To these are added Maysūn al-Iryānī (n. 1987) and Sawsan al-῾Arīqī (n. 1988), author of the collections Akṯar min al-lāzim (2007, More than necessary) and Māḏā law taḥawwala damī ilà šūkulāt (2012, And if my blood turns into chocolate).
Yemeni fiction has also become appreciated in the non-Arab sphere thanks to the elegant style of the novels by ῾Alī al-Muqrī (b.1966), an author interested in the minorities of his country, who wrote Ṭa῾m aswad… rā Ihat Sawda (2009, black… black Taste perfume) and al-Yahudi al-Hali (2011; trans. it. the bell’ebreo, 2012) which addresses the issue of coexistence between religions throughout history d love set in the 17th century. between Fatima, the educated daughter of a mufti, and a young Jew. The novels of Waǧdī al-Ahdal (n.1973), on the other hand, arouse much sensation due to their ironic and irreverent tones, including Qawārib ǧabaliyyah (2002, Mountain boats), Ḥimār bayna al-aġānī (2004; trans. It A donkey in the midst of sounds, 2010), Faylasūf al-Karantīnah (2007, The philosopher of Karantina).