Friends of South Yemen

Pattern strip



Yemen absorbed into Ottoman Empire. Ottomans expelled in the 1600s.


British colonise Aden. When the Suez Canal opens in 1869, Aden is used as a refuelling port.


Ottomans make a comeback in the north.


Ottoman Empire comes to an end. North Yemen becomes independent and is ruled by Imam Yahya.


Yahya assassinated. His son, Ahmad, vanquishes opponents of feudal rule and becomes ruler.


Imam Ahmad dies. He is succeeded by his son, Sayf al-Islam al-Badr, who tries to rule, but army officers seize power and establish the Yemen Arab Republic. A civil war breaks out between royalists supported by Saudi Arabia and republicans backed by Egypt.

South Yemen formed


The pro-independence insurgency prompts Britain to withdraw from the south and its former territories unite as the People's Republic of Yemen.


The south is renamed the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen after a communist coup. It models itself on the Soviet Union with whom it establishes close ties.


Republican forces are victorious in the North Yemen civil war.


The Arab League brokers a ceasefire after border clashes between north and south.


Ali Abdallah Saleh becomes president of North Yemen.


Fighting breaks out again between the two Yemens.


A bloody power struggle in the south claims thousands of lives and drives the first generation of leaders from office. Haidar Abu Bakr Al-Attas emerges as leader and tries to unify the two states.

Unity under cloud


(May) - The two Yemens unite as the Republic of Yemen with Ali Abdallah Saleh as president. The Soviet Union disintegrates. Tensions between north and south continue.


(May-July) – War of succession. The southerners are defeated by the national army. State of emergency declared by President Saleh. Vice-President Ali Salem Al-Beid and other southern officials, who declare the secession of the south dismissed.


The National Opposition Front (MOWJ) a group that fought with the socialists against the northern regime set up in London.

Al-Qaeda strikes


(October) - US naval vessel USS Cole damaged in Al-Qaeda suicide attack in Aden. Seventeen US personnel killed.


(February) – Violence overshadows disputed municipal polls and referendum which backs extension to presidential term and powers.


(February) – Around 100 foreign Islamic clerics expelled in a crackdown on Al-Qaeda.

(October) - Al-Qaeda attacks and badly damages oil supertanker MV Limburg in Gulf of Aden. One person killed and 12 injured. Yemen loses substantial port revenues.

Houthi insurgency


(June-August) - Hundreds die as government troops battle insurgents led by Hussein Al-Houthi in the north.


(March-April) – Resurgence of fighting between government forces and supporters of the slain cleric Hussein Al-Houthi claims more than 200 lives.


(January-March) - Clashes continue between security forces and Al-Houthi rebels in the north. Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi accepts a ceasefire in the summer.

Southern Movement (Al-Hirak Al-Janoubi) formed. Its protests calling for the return of the South Yemen republic are brutally suppressed.

Demands for reform


(November) - Police fire warning shots at opposition rally in Sanaa. Demonstrators demand electoral reform and fresh polls.


(January) - Saudi, Yemeni Al-Qaeda branches merge. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) formed.

(August) - The Yemeni army embarks on another offensive against Houthi rebels in the northern Saada province. Tens of thousands of people are displaced by the fighting.


(September) - Thousands flee government offensive against southerners in Shabwa province demanding independence.


(November) - President Saleh agrees to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, after months of protests in Yemen’s Arab Spring. A unity government is formed.


(February) - Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi inaugurated as president after an election in which he is the only candidate. He is unable to counter al-Qaeda attacks in the capital.


(March–January 2014) - National Dialogue Conference held in Sanaa as a key part of the agreement brokered by the UN and the Gulf Co-operation Council that saw President Ali Abdullah Saleh hand over power to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.


The Houthis take over Sanaa, being unhappy that Hadi stayed in power beyond the expiration of his two year mandate and the lack of implementation of the recommendations of the National Dialogue conference.

Civil war and foreign intervention starts


Saudi Arabia unilaterally launches an attack on Yemen under the name Operation Decisive Storm with the aim of restoring the government of Hadi and preventing the Iranian-backed Houthis from taking over the country. A civil war starts between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition militarily backed by the US, UK and France.


Southern Transitional Council (STC), which calls for the independence of the south, established after Hadi dismisses governors of the southern governorates.


Fighting breaks out between Hadi’s Saudi-back forces and the STC which is supported by the UAE. The STC seizes Aden.


(November) - The Riyadh Agreement, an attempt by the Saudis to solve the conflict between the STC and Hadi’s government, signed.


(April) - STC, unhappy with the lack of progress in implementing the Riyadh Agreement, withdraws from it and declares self-rule in Aden and the areas in the south under its control.


(July) - The STC announces it is “rescinding its self-rule declaration” to allow implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, acknowledging that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had exerted pressure to row back on the proclamation. Riyadh said it had proposed a plan to “accelerate” implementation of the agreement, with the Yemeni prime minister to form a new government within 30 days among other measures.