To Yemen and Back
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
As some of you may know, I recently took a short trip to Yemen to see for myself how things on the ground had changed since Salih was forced to step down as president. I had several productive interviews and meetings and I'm currently writing up some of what I found. Many of my impressions and thoughts from my trip will soon find their way, in various forms, onto Waq al-waq.
But for this introductory post I wanted to point out two things that really surprised me during this latest visit.
1. How popular the Huthis have become in Yemen. This is something I will be writing about extensively in the days to come. But for a group that fought Yemen and Saudi Arabia as recently as 2010 and were, at the time, fairly narrowly defined, the Huthis appear to have broadened out their appeal and now appeal to many more people than they used to.
2. The second thing that surprise me is how many in the international community and Yemeni government continue to act as though Yemen is a unified country. The central government does not have control over parts of the country - there is most definitely some drift taking place, and I don't think the central government has the capability to bring these regions back under its control. This, of course, has major implications for the National Dialogue, which I don't believe will work, at least not in the way the US and UN seem to think it will.
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