National name: Al-Jumhuriyah al-Yamaniyah
President: Ali Abdullah Saleh (1990)
Prime Minister: Ali Muhammad Mujawar (2007)
Total area: 203,849 sq mi (527,969 sq km)
Population (2007 est.): 22,211,743 (growth rate: 3.5%); birth rate: 42.7/1000; infant mortality rate: 58.3/1000; life expectancy: 62.5; density per sq mi: 109
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Sanaá, 1,778,900
Other large cities: Aden, 568,700; Hodiedah, 426,100; Tiaz, 317,600
Monetary unit: Rial
Ethnicity/race: predominantly Arab; but also Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans
Religions: Islam (including Sunni and Shiite), small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu
Literacy rate: 50% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2006 est.): $20.63 billion; per capita $1000. Real growth rate: 2.6%. Inflation: 14.8%. Unemployment: 35% (2003 est.). Arable land: 3%. Agriculture: grain, fruits, vegetables, pulses, qat, coffee, cotton; dairy products, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), poultry; fish. Labor force: 5.759 million; most people are employed in agriculture and herding; services, construction, industry, and commerce account for less than one-fourth of the labor force. Industries: crude oil production and petroleum refining; small-scale production of cotton textiles and leather goods; food processing; handicrafts; small aluminum products factory; cement; commercial ship repair. Natural resources: petroleum, fish, rock salt, marble, small deposits of coal, gold, lead, nickel, copper, fertile soil in west. Exports: $8.214 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): crude oil, coffee, dried and salted fish. Imports: $5.042 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): food and live animals, machinery and equipment, chemicals. Major trading partners: Thailand, China, Singapore, UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, India, U.S., Kuwait (2004).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 968,400 (2006); mobile cellular: 2.075 million. Radio broadcast stations: AM 6, FM 1, shortwave 2 (1998). Radios: 1.05 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 7 (plus several low-power repeaters) (1997). Televisions: 470,000 (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 171 (2006). Internet users: 220,000 (2005).
Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 71,300 km ; paved: 6,200 km; unpaved: 65,100 km (2005 est.). Ports and harbors: Aden, Al Hudaydah, Al Mukalla, As Salif, Ras Issa, Mocha, Nishtun. Airports: 44 (2002).
International disputes: Eritrea protests Yemeni fishing around the Hanish islands awarded to Eritrea by the ICJ in 1999; nomadic groups in border region with Saudi Arabia resist demarcation of boundary.
Formerly divided into two nations, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and the Yemen Arab Republic, the Republic of Yemen occupies the southwest tip of the Arabian Peninsula on the Red Sea opposite Ethiopia and extends along the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Saudi Arabia is to the north and Oman is to the east. The country is about the size of France. A 700-mile (1,130-km) narrow coastal plain in the south gives way to a mountainous region and then a plateau area.
The history of Yemen dates back to the Minaean (1200–650 B.C.) and Sabaean (750–115 B.C.) kingdoms. Ancient Yemen (centered around the port of Aden) engaged in the lucrative myrrh and frankincense trade. It was invaded by the Romans (1st century A.D.) as well as the Ethiopians and Persians (6th century A.D.). In A.D. 628 it converted to Islam and in the 10th century came under the control of the Rassite dynasty of the Zaidi sect, which remained involved in North Yemeni politics until 1962. The Ottoman Turks nominally occupied the area from 1538 to the decline of their empire in 1918.
The northern portion of Yemen was ruled by imams until a pro-Egyptian military coup took place in 1962. The junta proclaimed the Yemen Arab Republic, and after a civil war in which Egypt's Nasser and the USSR supported the revolutionaries and King Saud of Saudi Arabia and King Hussein of Jordan supported the royalists, the royalists were finally defeated in mid-1969.
The southern port of Aden, strategically located at the opening of the Red Sea, was colonized by Britain in 1839, and by 1937, with an expansion of its territory, it was known as the Aden Protectorate. In the 1960s the Nationalist Liberation Front (NLF) fought against British rule, which led to the establishment of the People's Republic of Southern Yemen on Nov. 30, 1967. In 1979, under strong Soviet influence, the country became the only Marxist state in the Arab world.
The Republic of Yemen was established on May 22, 1990, when pro-Western Yemen and the Marxist Yemen Arab Republic merged after 300 years of separation to form the new nation. The poverty and decline in Soviet economic support in the south was an important incentive for the merger. The new president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was elected by the parliaments of both countries.
Differences over power sharing and the pace of integration between the north and the south came to a head in 1994, resulting in a civil war. The north's superior forces quickly overwhelmed the south in May and early June despite the south's brief declaration of succession. The victorious north presented a reconciliation plan providing for a general amnesty and pledges to protect political democracy.
The president's party, the General People's Congress, won an enormous victory in the April 1997 parliamentary elections, the first since the civil war. In 1998–1999, a militant Islamic group, the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, kidnapped several groups of Western tourists, which led to the deaths of several during a poorly orchestrated rescue attempt. The group's leader, Zein al-Abidine al-Mihdar, threatened to continue attacks on tourists and government officials. The goal of the militants is to overthrow the government and turn Yemen into an Islamic state.
On Oct. 12, 2000, 17 Americans died and 37 were wounded when suicide bombers attacked the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole, which was refueling in Aden, Yemen. The U.S. had numerous clashes with Yemeni authorities during the investigation of the terrorist act. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., however, Yemen increased its cooperation with the U.S. and assisted in antiterrorism measures. In Oct. 2002, a French tanker, the Limburg, was also the victim of a terrorist attack off the coast of Yemen. Ten suspects of the Cole bombing escaped from prison in April 2003; seven, including the two suspected masterminds of the attack, were recaptured in 2004. Fifteen militants were convicted in Aug. 2004 on a variety of charges, including the attack on the Limburg. In September, two key al-Qaeda operatives involved in the Cole bombing were sentenced to death.
In presidential elections in Sept. 2006, incumbent Ali Abdullah Saleh was reelected with 77% of the vote. In March 2007, President Saleh appointed Ali Muhammad Mujawar prime minister and asked him to form a cabinet.