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Free Content The limits of the sectarian narrative in Yemen

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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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Keywords: Houthi; Yemen; proxy conflict; sectarianism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College Dublin, Ireland

Publication date: November 2019

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  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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