Officially, the compulsory school is 9 years old from the age of 6 children. The high school is 3 years old. In 2001, approx. 81% of the relevant age group in primary school. According to unofficial sources, approx. 52% of the adult population is illiterate. There are several public and private universities. Since the merger of the two states, education has been a focus area.
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Following a congress that received significant support from the people, the National Liberation Front in the South in October 1978 founded the Yemen Socialist Party. In December, the first election was held after independence, with the people electing 111 representatives from 175 candidates for the People’s Revolutionary Council. Party general secretary Abdel Fattah Ismail was appointed head of state. He resigned in April 1980 and was succeeded by then Prime Minister Ali Nasser Mohammed, who had been one of the founders of the Liberation Front.
Saudi Arabia’s permanent hostility to South Yemen was reinforced when the Saudi Arabians claimed part of South Yemen – the part where the Algerian state oil company had discovered oil. Tensions intensified at the same time as the rising North American military presence in Saudi Arabia.
Yemen flag source: Countryaah.com
Major Ali Abdullah Saleh had been appointed president of Nordyemen in 1978. He could not prevent the country’s internal tensions in 1979 from arising in armed conflicts. The National Democratic Front, which consisted of all the country’s progressive forces, immediately faced power, but after Saudi maneuvers, the war was instead directed at South Yemen. Following mediation from Syria, Iraq and Jordan, the ceasefire succeeded and the reunification negotiations that had been suspended since 1972 were resumed.
In February 1985, the People’s Supreme Council, President Ali Nasser Mohammed, forced him to fire his prime minister. Instead, Haider Abu Bakr – who was associated with Fattah Ismail – was posted to the post. The president resisted this restriction of his power, and initiated conspiracies to regain it. On January 13, 1986, a counter-coup was launched, triggering a brief but intense civil war that cost 10,000 lives. Fattah Ismail died during the fighting and Mohammed Ali Nasser was replaced by Prime Minister Haider Abu Bakr al-Attas at the presidential post. The new head of state pledged to maintain alliances with Ethiopia and Syria.
In May 1981, North and South Yemen signed an agreement on joint collection of information on the geological riches of the two countries’ subsurface. When oil was found on both sides of the border in 1985, this agreement helped to strengthen the ties between the two governments. The oil deposits have made Yemen one of the largest oil producers in the Arab world.
President Ali Saleh’s success in neutralizing both internal and external pressure created improved conditions for rapid reunification. Thus, on 22 May 1990, the Republic of Yemen could be established. Its political capital became Sana’a (formerly the capital of Northern Yemen) and the economic capital became Aden (formerly the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic).
At a joint meeting between the parliaments of the two countries gathered in Aden, a Presidential Council was elected, consisting of General Ali Abdullah Saleh (former president of Northern Yemen), Kadi Abdul Karim al-Arshi, Salem Saleh Mohammed and Abdul Aziz Abdel Ghani. Council members decided to appoint Ali Abdullah Saleh to be the President of the United Republic. Ali Al Beid was elected Vice President. General Haydar Abu Bakr al-Attas (former president of the South Yemen) also joined the Council.
In May 1991, the new constitution was ratified following a referendum that gave the overwhelming majority. The Constitution gave the country freedom of speech and political pluralism. The fundamentalist Islamic groups opposed to the reunion called for a boycott. The reason was that the new constitution was partly not based on Sharia (Islamic law) and partly that women were given the right to vote.
The new constitution quickly had consequences. In the following years, 53 political parties and 85 newspapers and magazines appeared in the country. There are no longer political prisoners and all views and political parties have the right to comment.
Yemen’s reunion is of great importance to the region. Despite the major political upheavals since the British colonization, Islam is still the most important connecting element for the Yemenites.