The description is submitted to:


Session R4740 (Updating the Conflict in Yemen), 2017
Drying Sheba's Tears. As an anthropologist and historian I will focus on the damage being inflicted on the diverse population of Yemen, which is undergoing a humanitarian crisis that in many ways is unprecedented. Yemen has a long history, one of the oldest on the Arabian Peninsula. Its strategic importance at the narrow bottom of the Red Sea and across from the Horn of Africa has long given Yemen global significance for trade. The current conflict in Yemen has a range of causes, both internal and external, and has repercussions far outside its neighboring countries. Since the revolutions in the north (1963) and south (1967), both nations states were weak and failed to achieve effective governance over the entire population, especially in tribal areas. The unification of north and south in 1990 signaled an opportunity for building a more viable state, but these hopes were dashed by political infighting that led to a monopoly of power by Ali Abdullah Salih and his continuing struggle since the Arab Spring to regain power. My discussion will focus on the impact of the ongoing crisis on Yemen’s culture, including the erosion of ethical tribal values (qabyala), the growth of a politicized religious sectarianism, and the loss of hope for Yemen’s youth. But I will also look at the resilience of many Yemenis to create a better life through advocacy, raising community awareness around shared goals and artistic expression. Recognizing the diversity of Yemen’s people is an important corrective to the superficial media coverage that focuses on the major political groups and external interference. No matter the outcome of the current war, Yemen’s people will survive and their future will depend on how the various groups respond to the crisis and draw on traditional values of mediation and community support to rebuild a country ravaged by war and sectarian hatred.