Military Wiki
South Yemen Civil War
South Yemen.png
Governorates which previously formed the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in Red
DateJanuary 1986
LocationSouth Yemen

Ali Nasir Muhammad's defeat

  • Death of Abdul Fattah Ismail
  • Succession by Ali Salim al-Beidh
People's Democratic Republic of Yemen Abdul Fattah Ismail's faction People's Democratic Republic of Yemen Ali Nasir Muhammad's faction
Commanders and leaders

People's Democratic Republic of Yemen Abdul Fattah Ismail
Former President People's Democratic Republic of Yemen Ali Ahmad Nasir Antar
Vice-president of South Yemen People's Democratic Republic of Yemen Saleh Muslih Qassem
Defense minister of South Yemen

Ali Salim al-Beidh
YSP Politburo Member
People's Democratic Republic of Yemen Ali Nasir Muhammad
President of South Yemen
Casualties and losses
4,000-10,000 dead[1]
60,000 refugees

South Yemen Civil War took place in January 1986 in South Yemen, as a result of tensions between factions centred around Abdul Fattah Ismail and Ali Nasir Muhammad in the leadership of the ruling Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). The conflict quickly escalated into a costly civil war of about half a month long, which resulted in thousands of casualties.


In 1980, PDRY president Abdul Fattah Ismail resigned and went into exile. His successor, Ali Nasir Muhammad, took a less interventionist stance toward both North Yemen and neighbouring Oman. The ruling Yemeni Socialist Party was increasingly polarised between supporters of Abdul Fattah Ismail who espoused a hardline leftist ideology and were closely aligned to the Soviet Union, and those of Ali Nasir Muhammad who espoused a more pragmatic domestic policies and friendlier relations with Arab states and the West.

On June 1985, the YSP politburo adopted a resolution stating that anyone who resorted to violence in settling internal political disputes is considered a criminal and a betrayer of the homeland.[2]


On January 13, 1986, bodyguards of Ali Nasir Muhammad opened fire on members of the Yemeni Socialist Party politburo as the body was due to meet. Most of the politburo members were armed and had their own bodyguards, so gunfire broke out. Ali Nasir´s supporters were not in the meeting room at the time. Vice-president Ali Ahmad Nasir Antar, Defense minister Saleh Muslih Qassem and the YSP disciplinary chief, Ali Shayi Hadi were killed in the shootout. Abdul Fattah Ismail survived the attack but was apparently killed later on that day as naval forces loyal to Ali Nasir shelled the city.[2][3]

Fighting lasted for 12 days and resulted in thousands of casualties, Ali Nasir's ouster, and Ismail's death. Some 60,000 people, including Ali Nasir, fled to the YAR. In the conflict that took the lives of anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 people, al-Beidh was one of the few high-ranking officials on the winning side who survived.[1]


A former Politburo member, al-Beidh took the top position in the YSP following a 12-day 1986 civil war between forces loyal to former chairman Abdul Fattah Ismail and then-chairman Ali Nasir Muhammad. An Ismail ally, he took control after Muhammad's defeat and defection and Ismail's death.[4][5]


Reunification of Yemen and 1994 civil war

Suffering a loss of more than half its aid from the Soviet Union from 1986 to 1989,[6] and an interest in possible oil reserves on the border between the countries, al-Beidh's government worked toward unification with North Yemen officials.[7][8]

Efforts toward unification proceeded from 1988. Although the governments of the PDRY and the YAR declared that they approved a future union in 1972, little progress was made toward unification, and relations were often strained.

In 1990, North Yemen and South Yemen united into one country, but in February 1994, clashes between northern and southern forces started and quickly developed into a full-scale civil war. As northern forces advanced on Aden, al-Beidh declared the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Yemen on 21 May.[9] The southern resistance however failed. Saleh enlisted Salafi and Jihadist forces to fight against Southern forces of the Yemeni Socialist Party. Forces loyal to Ali Nasir also took part. Northern forces entered Aden on 7 July.

Southern Movement

In 2007 southern army officers and security officials who had been forced into retirement after the 1994 war started demonstrations calling for their reinstatement or compensation. The protests gradually developed into a movement for autonomy or independence of the former PDRY.

In 2009 prominent Southern Islamist leader Tariq al-Fadhli, who had fought for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet war in Afghanistan, broke his alliance with President Saleh to join the secessionist South Yemen Movement, which gave a new thrust to the Southern movement, in which al-Fadhli for some time became a prominent figure. That same year, on 28 April, a revolt in the South started again, with massive demonstrations in most major towns.[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Halliday, Fred, Revolution and Foreign Policy: The Case of South Yemen, 1967-1987, Cambridge University Press, 2002, page 42
  2. 2.0 2.1 John Kifner (9 February 1986). "MASSACRE WITH TEA: SOUTHERN YEMEN AT WAR". NY Times. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
  3. Brehony, Noel, Yemen Divided: The Story of a Failed State in South Arabia, London: I.B. Tauris, 2011, page 151
  4. Busky, Donald, Communism in history and theory: Asia, Africa, and the Americas, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, page 74
  5. Rouhollah K. Ramazani and Joseph A. Kechichian, The Gulf Cooperation Council: record and analysis, University of Virginia Press, 1988, page 125
  6. Hurd, Robert and Noakes, Greg, North and South Yemen Lead Up to the Break Up, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1994, Page 48
  7. Jonsson, Gabriel, Towards Korean reconciliation: socio-cultural exchanges and cooperation, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006, pages 38-40
  8. Coswell, Alan, 2 Yemens Let Animosity Fizzle into Coziness, New York Times, October 20, 1989
  9. Brehony, Noel, Yemen Divided: The Story of a Failed State in South Arabia, London: I.B. Tauris, 2011, pages 195-196
  10. Yemen: Behind Al-Qaeda Scenarios, an unfolding stealth agenda [Voltaire Network]

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