Republic of Yemen is an Arab country located in Western Asia, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south, and Oman to the east.Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Its capital and largest city is Sana'a. Yemen's territory includes more than 200 islands, the largest of which is Socotra, about 354 km (220 mi) to the south of mainland Yemen.The majority of Yemen's population is divided into tribal groups, especially in the northern areas of the country where 85% of local residents belong to various tribes There are also small groups of peoples of Turkish/Ottoman origin in urban areas. Yemen is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Ali Abdullah Saleh was the first elected president of the reunified Yemen. Since the 1990s, the Houthis (an armed Zaydi group) has attempted to establish Zaydi Shia principles in the country.
Yemen has long existed at the crossroads of cultures. It linked some of the oldest centres of civilization in the Near East by virtue of its location in the Arabian peninsula.
Between the 12th century BCE and the 6th century CE, the Minaean, Sabaean (biblical Sheba, Hadhramaut, Qataban, and Himyarite kingdoms controlled the lucrative spice and incense trade in the region.
In the 8th century BC, the Sabaens built the 1,894-foot-high and 3,000-foot long Marib Dam. Led by the priest-king Karib'il Watar I, the Sabaeans unified most of Southern Arabia in the 7th century BCE and established a confederacy with the Hadramites and Qatabanis. Lack of water in the Arabian peninsula prevented the Sabaeans from unifying the entire peninsula; instead, they established various colonies to control trade routes. Similar colonies were found in northern Ethiopia, as well, and descriptions of Sabaean presence in the extended border of Palestine are also found in the Hebrew Bible, including an attack on Job. Ancient Yemenis developed a writing system by the 10th century BCE called Musnad, which used to be the main writing form for the entire Arabian peninsula until the 6th century CE.
Yemen is located in Western Asia, in the southern half of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. It lies south of Saudi Arabia and west of Oman, between latitudes 12° and 19° N and longitudes 42° and 55° E.
A number of Red Sea islands, including the Hanish Islands, Kamaran, and Perim, as well as Socotra in the Arabian Sea, belong to Yemen. Many of the islands are volcanic; for example Jabal al-Tair had a volcanic eruption in 2007 and before that in 1883.
At 527,970 km2 (203,850 sq mi), Yemen is the world's 50th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Thailand and larger than the U.S. state of California. Yemen is situated at 15°N 48°E.
The country can be divided geographically into four main regions: the coastal plains in the west, the western highlands, the eastern highlands, and the Rub al Khali in the east.
As a result of the Yemeni revolution, the constitution of Yemen is expected to be rewritten, and then new elections held in 2014. The national government administers the capital and largest cities, but some other regions are outside of its grasp, governed by armed militant groups which expanded their control during the chaos of the 2011–12 uprising. The two major groups are Ansar al-Sharia (a branch or affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), which has declared several "Islamic emirates" in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwah, and the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group centered in Sa'dah province.
Yemen is a republic with a bicameral legislature. Under the 1991 constitution, an elected President, an elected 301-seat Assembly of Representatives, and an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power. The President is the head of state, and the Prime Minister is the head of government.
The geography and ruling Imams of North Yemen kept the country isolated from foreign influence before 1962. The country's relations with Saudi Arabia were defined by the Taif Agreement of 1934, which delineated the northernmost part of the border between the two kingdoms and set the framework for commercial and other intercourse. The Taif Agreement has been renewed periodically in 20-year increments, and its validity was reaffirmed in 1995. Relations with the British colonial authorities in Aden and the south were usually tense.
The Soviet and Chinese Aid Missions established in 1958 and 1959 were the first important non-Muslim presence in North Yemen. Following the September 1962 revolution, the Yemen Arab Republic became closely allied with and heavily dependent upon Egypt. Saudi Arabia aided the royalists in their attempt to defeat the Republicans and did not recognize the Yemen Arab Republic until 1970. At the same time, Saudi Arabia maintained direct contact with Yemeni tribes, which sometimes strained its official relations with the Yemeni Government. Saudi Arabia remained hostile to any form of political and social reform in Yemen and continued to provide financial support for tribal elites.
The government and its security forces, often considered to suffer from rampant corruption, have been responsible for torture, inhumane treatment, and extrajudicial executions. There are arbitrary arrests of citizens, especially in the south, as well as arbitrary searches of homes. Prolonged pretrial detention is a serious problem, and judicial corruption, inefficiency, and executive interference undermine due process. Freedom of speech, the press, and religion are all restricted. Journalists who tend to be critical of
the government are often harassed and threatened by the police.
Yemen is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Arab World, with a formal 35% employment rate, dwindling natural resources, a young population and increasing population growth. Yemen's economy is weak compared to most countries in the Middle-East, mainly because Yemen has very small oil reserves. Yemen's economy depends heavily on the oil it produces, and its government receives the vast majority of its revenue from oil taxes. But Yemen's oil reserves are expected to be depleted by 2017, possibly bringing on economic collapse. Yemen does have large proven reserves of natural gas. Yemen's first liquified natural gas (LNG) plant began production in October 2009.
Rampant corruption is a prime obstacle to development in the country, limiting local reinvestments and driving away regional and international capital. Foreign investments remain largely concentrated around the nation's hydrocarbon industry.
Religion in Yemen consists primarily of two principal Islamic religious groups; 55% of the Muslim population is Sunni and 45% is Shiite according to the UNHCR. Sunnis are primarily Shafi'i but also include significant groups of Malikis and Hanbalis. Shi'is are primarily Zaydi and also have significant minorities of Twelver Shias and Musta'ali Western Isma'ili Shias.
The Sunnis are predominantly in the south and southeast. The Zaydis are predominantly in the north and northwest whilst the Ismailis are in the main centers such as Sana'a and Ma'rib. There are mixed communities in the larger cities. About 1 percent of Yemenis are non-Muslim, adhering to Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or atheism.
An estimated 100,000 people of Indian origin are concentrated in the southern part of the country, around Aden, Mukalla, Shihr, Lahaj, Mokha and Hodeidah.
Arabic is the official language, although English is increasingly understood by citizens in major cities. In the Mahra area (the extreme east) and the island Soqotra, several ancient south-Arabic Semitic languages are spoken.
The official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Yemeni Arabic is spoken in several regional dialects.
Yemen is one of the main homelands of the South Semitic family of languages. Mehri is the largest South Semitic language in Yemen with more than 70,000 speakers. The ethnic group itself is called Mahra. Soqotri is another South Semitic language, with speakers on the island of Socotra isolated from the pressures of Arabic on the Yemeni mainland. According to the 1990 census in Yemen, the number of speakers there was 57,000 .
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