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The limits of the sectarian narrative in Yemen

Author: Vincent Durac1
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  • 1 University College Dublin, Ireland
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The conflict in Yemen presents an apparently quintessential example of sectarian conflict in the Middle East today. At the domestic level, the conflict is typically seen as one which pits Shia Muslims, in the form of the Zaydi Houthi movement, against its Sunni Muslim antagonists in the form of the deposed but internationally-recognised president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his supporters. At the regional level, the conflict is represented as proxy war between Iran, the sponsors of the Houthis and Sunni Muslim powers, led by Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who intervened in 2015 with the objective of restoring Hadi to power. This paper argues that there are strict limits to the utility of the sectarian narrative in the analysis of the Yemeni conflict and presents a critical analysis of the sectarian framing of Yemeni political dynamics. It begins with a broad attempt to contextualise the discussion of sectarianism in the region. This is followed by an extended discussion of the view of the conflict as inherently sectarian at both the domestic and regional levels. This, in turn, is followed by a critique of the sectarian narrative, at both levels.

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  • 1 University College Dublin, Ireland

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