What Should I Know about Yemen?

A map of the Middle East, with Yemen at the bottom.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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The Republic of Yemen, or Al-Jumhuriyah al-Yamaniyah, is located in Southwest Asia, next to Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea. Besides the main territory, Yemen also consists of a number of islands, which are spread throughout the Arabian Sea and some of which are relatively far from Yemen. Yemen is a geographical patchwork, with a large area of desert in the north and white beaches in the south. Further in the coast, the beach gives way to marshes, and eventually to high plateaus and lagoons.

Yemen has over 20,000,000 residents spread out over an area slightly larger than the state of California. It also has a birth rate as high as the poorest and less developed countries in Africa, and a similar GDP of $90 0US Dollars (USD). Women's rights are close to non-existent in Yemen, and while it's common for women to receive high education, it's also legal for them to be married after the age of nine. Poor families, in particular, insist on their daughters getting married as soon as possible, as this brings a financial relief on the family.

Because women get married so young and because birth control is not widespread, the average woman bears seven children. Violence against women, religious minorities, disabled people, and children is reported to be widespread in Yemen and becoming harder to control. There is no freedom of the press and torture is an acceptable method used by Yemen's official authorities to obtain information or punish criminals.


Yemen is one of the oldest inhabited nations in the world. It was already a thriving commercial center in the ninth century BC, and up until the 12th century AD, it was also one of the richest areas in the Middle East. Occupied by the Ottoman Empire and then by the British, Yemen only gained independence in 1962. Over the past few years, Yemen has done little to embrace the modern world. English is taught in schools alongside Arabic, which is the official language, but the media is strictly controlled, and access to Western culture is little or none. Literacy rate is about 50 percent, out of which women comprise only a very small part.


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