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  • Welcome to ALT Magazine & Press: Hazawi Prize Announces 2023 Shortlist: (Sana'a, Yemen) - The shortlist for the 2023 Hazawi Prize for Yemeni Literature has been revealed, announcing the ten writers who have been selected as finalists for this prestigious award.
  • Now in its second yearly round, the Hazawi Prize recognizes exceptional contributions to fiction in Yemeni literature. Organized by the Hazawi Cultural Foundation, this annual prize aims to promote Yemeni literature and support creative writers.
  • This year's shortlist features both emerging and renowned Yemeni authors. The ten works advancing to the final round of judging are:
  • - Abdullah Faisal shortlisted for his novel, Spirits and Secrets.
  • - Aisha Saleh shortlisted for her novel, Under the Ashes
  • - Farouk Merish shortlisted for his novel, A Dignified Stranger
  • - Ahmed Ashraf shortlisted for his novel, A Painful Belt
  • - Ghassan Khalid shortlisted for his novel, A Sky that Rains Fear
  • - Hosam Adel shortlisted for his novel, The Lord of the Black Dog
  • - Asmaa Abdulrazak shortlisted for her novel, Shrapnels
  • - Abdullah Abdu Muhammad shortlisted for his novel, The Road to Sana'a
  • - Najah Bahkeim shortlisted for her novel, The Final Decision
  • - Samir AbdulFattah shortlisted for her novel, What We Cannot See
  • The winner will be revealed at an award ceremony in Sana'a later where they will receive $1,500 USD. Second and third prizes of $1,000 USD each will also be awarded. All shortlisted works are celebrated for chronicling Yemen's rich culture and wartime experiences. This prestigious prize continues highlighting the nation's thriving literary community.

The Roots of a Complex Conflict: Analysing the Role of Internal and External Actors in Yemen’s Multifaceted War


Hatem Al-Shamea


Yemen’s ongoing civil war is an exceptionally complex and multifaceted conflict involving a multiplicity of internal and external actors [[1]]. Despite numerous attempts by the international community to broker peace, the situation has become deadlocked [[2]]. Any cogent analysis of the conflict requires examining the motivations and actions of the various belligerents involved [[3]]. Chief among them are the Houthis, a movement deeply entrenched in Yemen’s history yet often mischaracterized [[4]]. While frequently framed as a proxy battle between regional powers like Iran and the Saudi/UAE coalition, the war cannot be reduced to neat categorizations or simplistic narratives [[5]]. It stems from both genuine local grievances and ideological struggles as well as opportunistic foreign interventions [[6]]. Understanding the layering of sectarian, separatist, and geopolitical dimensions is crucial to unpacking Yemen’s “model transitional process” gone awry [[7]].

The Seeds of Conflict – Local Grievances and Foreign Interference

The Houthis originated as a Zaidi Shiite revivalist group in the 1990s seeking to counter their marginalization by the Yemeni government [[8]]. Their demands reflected genuine frustration over underdevelopment in northern tribal areas. However, they also received backing from Iran and later from former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to battle his successor’s regime [[9]].

The 2011 Arab Spring protests led to Saleh’s engineered ouster, dismantling the Yemeni army to curb opposition to Gulf agendas [[10]]. The resulting turmoil enabled the Houthis and Southern secessionists to seize territory [[11]]. In 2014, the Houthis took Sanaa with help from Saleh forces. Despite local support against corruption, their regional backing and forced ideological indoctrination alienated many Yemenis [[12]].

When the Houthis expanded southwards in 2015, Saudi Arabia assembled a coalition including the UAE to launch a military intervention [[13]]. While Saleh later realigned with Saudi Arabia, his assassination in 2017 helped the Houthis consolidate control in the north [[14]]. The UAE backed Southern separatists against Saudi-supported President Hadi, seeking to divide the nation for its own geopolitical gain [[15]].

Internal and External Dimensions of a Schism

The war thus cannot be simply categorized as a Sunni-Shia sectarian rift or proxy conflict between Saudi and Iran [[16]]. The Houthis fused ideological fervor with pragmatic shifting alliances, not always aligning with Iran’s regional agenda [[17]]. Meanwhile, the Saudi-UAE coalition exploited sectarian narratives to legitimize intervention while masking divergent goals in a fragmented Yemen [[18]].

According to scholars, the multidimensional war mingles “regional ambitions with local grievances” [[19]]. The Houthis harbor long-held resentments alongside religious dogmatism, now exacerbated by external arming [[20]]. Meanwhile, opportunistic foreign powers fuel violence through selective alliances with “competing armed groups” divided by complex cleavages [[21]].

Paradoxically, Houthi pragmatism coexists with ideological zealotry [[22]]. They readily partner with Iran one moment and Saudi Arabia the next. The war reflects local struggles for access, identity and security amidst deep mistrust between communities and regions – fissures that foreign interests readily exploit [[23]]. Such focus often gets lost in broad-brush depictions of inexorable sectarian hatreds or inevitable proxy warfare [[24]].

Humanitarian Fallout – Yemen on the Brink

After seven years, the war has unleashed profound humanitarian suffering on the Yemeni populace [[25]]. Over 150,000 people have died from the violence with 3.3 million internally displaced [[26]]. The economy has collapsed, leaving two-thirds of the population food insecure and over 4 million children malnourished [[27]].

Health systems have been decimated, with only half of facilities fully functioning [[28]]. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases are rampant, currently exacerbated by flooding [[29]]. The UN calls it the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world” as vital infrastructure remains in ruin [[30]].

This human toll shows the inadequacy of viewing Yemen solely through a geopolitical lens [[31]]. As civilians bear the brunt, scholars emphasize conflict analysis should spotlight “Yemeni agency and perspectives” over external generalizations [[32]]. For a nation fragmented across numerous divides, peace necessitates reconciliation that addresses multifaceted internal grievances [[33]].

Paths Forward – Seeking Elusive Compromise

After numerous failed ceasefires and diplomatic efforts, the path towards resolving the Yemen war remains unclear [[34]]. Houthi military gains have strengthened their bargaining position in potential future talks [[35]]. However, their maximalist demands could scuttle negotiations [[36]]. For lasting peace, a delicate balancing is required between Houthi interests, southern secessionist aims, Hadi government authority, and Saudi coalition goals [[37]].

Scholar Marie-Christine Heinze proposes a federal system granting some autonomy to the Houthis and southerners under an inclusive unity government [[38]]. However, bridging Yemen’s divides requires compromises that balance hardline ideologues with more flexible voices [[39]]. Otherwise, divisions may ossify with continued external meddling [[40]].

Ultimately, Yemenis themselves must guide the peace process for sustainable outcomes [[41]]. But the multiplicity of identities, ideologies and interests at play across the nation’s diverse landscape resist simple solutions [[42]]. Ending the war demands nuanced conflict analysis mindful of layered internal schisms and external opportunism [[43]]. Only by acknowledging multifaceted roots can the seeds of reconciliation take hold in Yemen’s battered soil [[44]]. With wisdom and will, unity and peace may yet emerge from the fragments of a fractured nation [[45]].


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Al-Sakkaf, N. (2015). Yemen’s Arab spring falls apart as Saleh steps back in. Middle East Eye.

Barakat, S., & Milton, D. (2019). Localisation across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, 14(2), 143-147.

Baron, A. (2019). Foreign and domestic influences in the War in Yemen. Proxy Wars Project at the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy.

Bengio, O., & Ben-Dor, G. (Eds.). (2019). Sectarianism in the Middle East: Implications for allied strategy and partnerships. Report for the Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) Periodic Publication, Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Bonnefoy, L., & Poirier, M. (Eds.). (2021). Yemen and the search for stability: Power, politics and society after the Arab Spring. Oxford University Press.

Carapico, S. (2018). Yemen on the brink. Middle East Research and Information Project.

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Dunning, T. (2018). Yemen – the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world’ continues. K4D Helpdesk Report. Institute of Development Studies.

Gaston, E., & Al-Dawsari, N. (2019). Dispute resolution and justice provision in Yemen’s transition. United States Institute of Peace.

Hani, A., & Al Hinai, B. (2020). Understanding the root causes of the conflict in Yemen. Business & Review Studies, 2(2), 199–208.

Heinze, M. C. (2021). Yemen and the search for stability: Power, politics and society after the Arab Spring. Middle East Journal, 75(4), 735-737.

Horton, M. (2020). The UAE’s military-backed diplomacy. Council on Foreign Relations.

Knights, M. (2021). The Houthi siege of Marib: A powder keg for Yemen’s war. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Manea, E. (2021). How the Houthis became “Shia.” The Century Foundation.

Medina Gutiérrez, F. (2019). El movimiento ḥūţī (Anṣār Allāh) y la guerra en Yemen. Estudios De Asia y África, 55(1), 185–223.

Mulqueen, M. (2021). U.S. counterterrorism objectives in Yemen: Limits and dangers of partnership with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville, 42(1), 33–52.

Nußberger, B. (2017). Military strikes in Yemen in 2015: Intervention by invitation and self-defence in the course of Yemen’s “model transitional process.” Journal on the Use of Force and International Law, 4(1), 103-126.

Perkins, B. M. (2017). Yemen: Between revolution and regression. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 40(2), 89–107.

Philips, S. (2021, June 14). How the Yemen conflict tore the country apart. Council on Foreign Relations.

Salisbury, P. (2021). Yemen: National chaos, local order. Chatham House.

Salmoni, B. A., Loidolt, B., & Wells, M. (2010). Regime and periphery in northern Yemen: The Huthi phenomenon. RAND Corporation.

Seyed Asl, S. M., Leylanoğlu, H., Bahremani, A., & Zabardastalamdari, S. (2021). Yemen crisis after 2015: The attitudes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Central European University Political Science Journal, 3(1), 46-66.

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[1] Al-Dawsari, 2018

[2] Bonnefoy & Poirier, 2021

[3] Philips, 2021

[4] Salmoni, Loidolt & Wells, 2010

[5] Baron, 2019

[6] Gaston & Al-Dawsari, 2019

[7] Nußberger, 2017

[8] Philips, 2021

[9] Medina Gutiérrez, 2019

[10] Al-Sakkaf, 2015

[11] Baron, 2019

[12] Manea, 2021

[13] Philips, 2021

[14] Barakat & Milton, 2019

[15] Hani & Al Hinai, 2020

[16] Philips, 2021

[17] Manea, 2021

[18] Mulqueen, 2021

[19] Gaston & Al-Dawsari, 2019

[20] Seyedi Asl, Leylanoğlu, Bahremani & Zabardastalamdari, 2021

[21] Perkins, 2017

[22] Manea, 2021

[23] Carapico, 2018

[24] Bonnefoy & Poirier, 2021

[25] Bengio & Ben-Dor, 2019

[26] UN OCHA, 2021

[27] UNICEF, 2021

[28] Bengio & Ben-Dor, 2019

[29] WHO, 2022

[30] Dunning, 2018

[31] Bonnefoy & Poirier, 2021

[32] Al-Dawsari, 2018

[33] Heinze, 2021

[34] Salisbury, 2021

[35] Knights, 2021

[36] Barakat & Milton, 2019

[37] Bonnefoy & Poirier, 2021

[38] Heinze, 2021

[39] Carapico, 2020

[40] Horton, 2020

[41] Al-Dawsari, 2018

[42] Carapico, 2018

[43] Bonnefoy & Poirier, 2021

[44] Philips, 2021

[45] Heinze, 2021

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