Asher Orkaby

Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center and holds a Ph.D. in International and Middle East History from Harvard University



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A Passing Generation of Yemeni Politics

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Asher Orkaby
Middle East Brief 90, March 2015


The September 2014 takeover of the Yemeni capital Sana'a by Houthi tribesmen, and subsequent events, have radically destabilized the fragile republic and holds the possibility of re-igniting a full civil war. Much of the analysis of current events in Yemen have focused on the rise of extremist religious groups, the possibility of a sectarian war, and the role of foreign powers in intensifying this conflict. In this Brief, Asher Orkaby takes an alternative view by examining the rise and success of the Houthi movement as a domestic conflict rooted in the crisis of legitimacy created by the passing of the 1960s revolutionary generation known as the Famous Forty. The ensuing power vacuum, he argues, has presented an opening for the Houthi movement to gain support for a religious and tribal alternative to the republican state model of the 1960s. The Brief concludes by suggesting that, with their situation growing increasingly desperate, Yemenis may accept the political certainty offered by the Houthi leadership, in a religiously-inspired language historically familiar to them.

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