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State of the Arab South

Written by: Omar Salman


There is an inapprehensible state of pessimism about the idea of restoring the Arab South State after the failure union with Yemen, or according to relevant literature, Northern Yemen.
Why is it strange that the Arab South may have an independent state? wasn’t there a southern state called People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen? Were not there millions of southern citizens who mobilized in several occasions demanding separation from Yemen? So, where exactly is the problem?!
The Arab South, as it is originally called, and not Southern Yemen as it is mistakenly called, was not part of Yemen, at least during modern history, except for this small period of the so-called Yemeni union between Arab Republic of Yemen and People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen since 1990. Southern citizens recognized their mistake in this union and tried to disengage and separate but they were faced by war to force them into the union.
Before 1967, when the Arab South gained independence from Great Britain, there were several Emirates, Sultanates and Meshiekhates (nearly 20 of them) in addition to Aden Reserve with its special status. All these formations had names referring to a region, a tribe or a dynasty but none of them had any reference to Yemen. The British tried to adjoin most of them into the so-called Arab South Union. Only when nationalists took control in 1967, the word Yemen appeared in the name of the state.
But when we consider the geography or demographic formation, we will find nothing linking southern governorates to Yemen. What is common between citizens of Aden and citizens of Sa’da, for example? What is common between Hadhramaut and Al-Mehra on one hand and the rest of Yemeni territories in the other? What links Yafia and Al-Dhala’a to northern governorates? Nothing.
Linking these parts to Yemen has no historical base. In addition, southern borders are established, documented and well-known without any border conflicts between the Arab South and Yemen. Cultural, tribal and demographic differences are clear enough.
What is more important is the will and determination of southern citizens to disengage and return to pre-1990 situation. Why then is there a state of persistence in ignoring all this and keeping the situation as it is without any benefits, neither to Yemen nor to the south?
Any analyst should know that regional and international politics may not like the idea of southern independence as this may affect current plans and equations. It may even create an inconvenient situation for some countries, not mentioning legal issues that may rise.
We can even say that separation will not be that easy with more problems in its way. There are economic problems in providing resources for reconstruction as southern governorates suffered marginalization and wars, in addition to administrative problem in reconstructing government organizations and restoring services.
There are regional conflicts inside the south. For example, since 1986 ware, there are delicta issues between Abian, Shabwa, Lahj and Al-Dhala’a in one hand and members of the Yemeni Socialist Party in the other. There are even older claims of independence or self-governance in Hadhramaut that its residents consider themselves closer to gulf states and have nothing to do with Yemen at all.
There will be lots of difficulties that may face those who are trying to revive the Arab South State or separate from Yemen. But these difficulties don’t justify denying the southern people their right of self-determination. If they want it, so be it like any other people in the world.
The southern will in separation is clear and confirmed. And all parties should respect their right and prepare suitable conditions for peaceful and civilized separation, just as the union itself, without wars or armed clashes and without negative effects on the interests of Yemen, the south, Gulf states and the Arab Peninsula.
Finally, nothing guarantees that separation will resolve all problems of the south. The southern may even suffer from the conditions under which they seek separation. But the main principle is still correct. The southern will in self-determination should be respected.

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