Yemen, at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, despite a history of trade and commerce due to its strategic position on the ancient spice routes.
Yemen was occupied by the Ottoman Turks until 1918, when it became a British protectorate. In 1967, the last British troops left, and the southern part of Yemen adopted a Communist-orientated government, resulting in the mass emigration of thousands of Yemenis to the north. North and South Yemen were unified as the Republic of Yemen in 1990, although there remains much civil unrest and armed conflict between the two to this day, with various foreign militants intervening, including Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran-backed militants supporting Houthi separatists from the country’s north.
Yemen remains a very tribal society, with an estimated 6,000 sheiks still presiding over various rural areas, and 70% of the population living outside urban settlements. The estimated population size is currently 21.5 million. Arabic is the official language.
Yemen was one of the first countries caught up in the Arab Spring as anti-government protests massed to unseat the authoritarian President Saleh after 32 years in power. Following ten months of popular uprising, Saleh signed an agreement in November 2011 in which he undertook to hand power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, ahead of an early presidential election. Mr Hadi took office in an uncontested presidential election in February 2012. In February 2014, a presidential panel approved plans to transform the country into a federation of six regions. However, petrol rises sparked mass, Houthi-led demonstrations in August, leading to the resignation of the Prime Minister. Unrest continued culminating in a Houthi takeover of government buildings in January 2015 and the resignation of the president and government.
As well as the tensions with Houthi, Shia Muslim, rebels in the north-west, separatists in the south have been struggling to return the pre-1990 separation of north and south Yemen. Yemeni forces, backed by the USA, have also been seeking to drive out Al-Qaeda units which used the 2011 instability to seize control of some towns in the south.
50% of the country is under the age of 15, leaving Yemen under great pressure to create and find jobs for the coming generation. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and depends greatly on its oil resources for national income. Foreign corporations are reluctant to invest heavily in Yemen due to the unstable political situation and the targeting of foreign workers in kidnappings for large ransoms.
Yemen faces many social problems, two of which include drug use and the widespread availability and distribution of weapons and firearms throughout the country. The consumption of the narcotic plant khat is common, but greatly reduces the efficiency of workers, as well as taking up to 50% of the average Yemeni’s family’s income. This is a problem for a country in which 45.5% of the population live below the poverty line.
The nation-wide presence of weapons, three for every Yemeni on average, also continues to create many problems in the form of gang-related crimes and armed violence.
Yemen claims to allow freedom of the press, but forbids publication of anything that could potentially humiliate Yemen or its relations with other countries. The vague nature of this prohibition has resulted in the closure and fining of numerous journalism companies since its implementation in 1994.
Freedom of religion and the right to practise it are permitted by the government, although there are restrictions on places of worship for non-Muslims. All legislation and law follow Shari‘a codes and conversion to a religion apart from Islam is forbidden. The right to build places of worship by non-Muslims requires government permission, although this cannot be requested by a non-Muslim.
Over the years there have been various kidnappings of foreigners, the majority of whom are Christians, the latest in June 2009, when nine Christians were abducted and seen of them executed by Al-Qaeda affiliated Yemenis.
- Pray for stability and the rule of law to return following the recent Houthi take-over of government institutions in the capital, Sanaa.
- Pray for progress towards an increasingly democratic, just and stable society.
- Pray for inward investment and success in overcoming Yemen’s deep poverty.
- Pray for an increased tolerance of Christians by the government, so that they may be able to worship in peace and freedom.
- Pray that the government reconsider its laws banning the construction of churches, so that Christians are able to meet together to worship.
- Pray for factions hostile to the government to work towards their goals through negotiation rather than armed conflict.
 Middle East Concern
 CIA World Factbook
 Middle East Concern
 Middle East Concern
 Persecution – International Christian Concern