GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Privatisation, the Land Question, and the Southern Cause in Yemen
Paper Proposal Text :
Following Yemeni unity in 1990, the regime launched a massive denationalisation process in what used to be the PDRY or South Yemen. Part of this policy was not only to restore properties to their previous owners but also to distribute state land to private owners. State owned housing was privatised by giving the accommodation to tenants who happened to occupy the house or flat as a private property. As it turned out, many properties claimed several owners, sometimes within one family, and bitter court cases followed suit. Southerners became specially bitter about the way 'southern lands' were handed over to members of Sana'a elite. These had to do with properties and villas given to state and ruling party functionaries and entire new residential areas erected for the elite. One such new area is the Green City that has been built on waste land outside Aden with fast road connections. Even though the land acquired itself has not caused dispute, in a country suffering from severe water shortage such new green areas raise concern over water. Still, some of the most bitter land disputes came after the short civil war in 1994. During the course of warfare, all industries in Aden were destroyed. There seems to have been a deliberate measure to target the industrial compounds as after the war, almost all factories in Aden had to close down. Partly this was done to allow northern Yemeni companies a better market share, partly in order to open the vast land areas the factories occupied to private speculation. Equally harsh were the measures carried out in southern countryside to redistribute state farm and cooperative lands to new private owners. This resulted in massive unemployment throughout the hinterland outside Aden, and formed the basis of the protest movement that sprang up in 2007, called the Southern Movement (hirak). My paper will argue that the land question is the most crucial and sensitive concern among all southern grievances and that its solution in the current National Dialogue is a key question. My paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Yemen during the PDRY and the Republic of Yemen, altogether some three years.