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South Yemen History

South Yemen, and particularly the strategic port city of 'Aden, had been under various forms of British control since 1839. British influence increased in the south and eastern portion of Yemen after the British captured the port of Aden in 1839. It was ruled as part of British India until 1937, when Aden was made a crown colony with the remaining land designated as east Aden and west Aden protectorates. Independently, there were two British protectorates (known as the Eastern and Western Aden Protectorates) which contained 24 sultanates, emirates and sheikhdoms in the hinterland of Aden. By 1965, most of the tribal states within the protectorates and the Aden colony proper had joined to form the British-sponsored federation of south Arabia.

The September 1962 revolution in North Yemen had taken upon itself to maintain resistance to confront the British colonialism in Aden and elsewhere in the southern and eastern regions. Oil and strategic real estate in South Arabia brought Great Britain and the Yemen and the U.A.R. to a confrontation in the spring of 1964. A long series of incidents on the frontier between the Yemen and the South Arabian Federation, characterized by frequent Yemeni incursions into Federal territory, led to a British air attack on Harib fort (28 March 1964) just inside the Yemen frontier in retaliation for a series of raids on Beihan State, a member of the South Arabian Federation. Similarly, throughout 1964 and 1965 military operations continued at intervals against dissident tribesmen in Jebel Radfan area of Dhala State, who were alleged by the Federal authorities to be receiving arms and support from the Yemeni republican authorities. British military operations succeeded in securing the main 90-mile Dhala-Aden trade route, but at the same time diplomatic and political efforts were made to speed measures to advance South Arabia's independence.

By 1965, most of the tribal states within the protectorates and the Aden colony proper had joined to form the British-sponsored Federation of South Arabia. South Yemen began its decent into violence in 1965 as two rival nationalist groups (the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF)) began terrorist campaigns in their struggle for control of Yemen. The 14th of October Revolution ignited from Radfan declaring the eventual independence of the southern and eastern regions.

The local insurgencies, aided by Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir's Egypt, finally pushed the British out of South Yemen. In 1967, in the face of uncontrollable violence, British troops began withdrawing, federation rule collapsed, and NLF elements took control after eliminating their FLOSY rivals.

The National Front in the South declared independence on November 30, 1967 and was named the People's Republic of South Yemen, but was renamed the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1970 after a radical wing of the Marxist NLF came to power and all political parties were joined with the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). The PDRY became the Arab world's first Marxist state. The Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and radical Palestinians established close ties with the new state.

In June 1969, a radical wing of the Marxist NLF gained power and changed the country's name on December 1, 1970, to the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). In the PDRY, all political parties were amalgamated into the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which became the only legal party. The Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) was the dominant political party for most of South Yemen's brief history, although an internal bloodbath born of ideological disagreements in 1986 significantly weakened the party. The YSP survived unification and is today a small but important member party of the opposition.

The PDRY established close ties with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and radical Palestinians. Following the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, owners of property expropriated by the communist government of the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen were invited to seek restitution; however, implementation has been extremely limited, and very few properties have been returned to previous owners.

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Page last modified: 05-08-2011 20:03:44 ZULU