Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen

Last updated
Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen

المملكة المتوكلية اليمنية
al-Mamlakah al-Mutawakkilīyah al-Yamaniah
Anthem:  السلام الوطني
(English: Royal Salute)
Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen in its region.svg
Location of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen
on the Arabian Peninsula after dwarfing in 1934.
StatusMember of United Arab States (1958–1961)
Capital Sana'a (19181948)
Ta'izz (19481962)
Common languages Arabic
Zaidi Islam
Government Theocratic absolute monarchy
Yahya Hamid ed-Din
Ahmad bin Yahya
Muhammad al-Badr
Historical era 20th century
 Independence from the Ottoman Empire
30 October 1918
30 September 1947
1 December 1970
1962195,000 km2 (75,000 sq mi)
Currency North Yemeni rial
Time zone UTC+3
Calling code 967
ISO 3166 code YE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg Yemen Vilayet
Yemen Arab Republic Flag of North Yemen.svg
Today part ofFlag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia
Flag of Yemen.svg  Yemen

The Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen (Arabic : المملكة المتوكلية اليمنيةal-Mamlakah al-Mutawakkilīyah al-Yamaniah), also known as the Kingdom of Yemen or, retrospectively, as North Yemen, was a state that existed between 1918 and 1962 in the northern part of what is now Yemen. Its capital was Sana'a until 1948, then Taiz. From 1962 to 1970, it maintained control over portions of Yemen (frequently most) until its final defeat in the North Yemen Civil War. Yemen was admitted to the United Nations on 30 September 1947.




Zaidi religious leaders expelled forces of the Ottoman Empire from what is now northern Yemen by the middle of the 17th century but, within a century, the unity of Yemen was fractured due to the difficulty of governing Yemen's mountainous terrain.

In 1849, the Ottoman Empire occupied the coastal Tihamah region to put pressure on the Zaiddiyah imam to sign a treaty recognizing Ottoman suzerainty and allowing for a small Ottoman force to be stationed in Sana'a. However, the Ottomans were slow to gain control over Yemen and never managed to eliminate all resistance from local Zaydis. In 1913, shortly before World War I, the Ottoman Empire was forced to cede some power formally to highland Zaydis.


On 30 October 1918, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Imam Yahya Muhammad of the al-Qasimi dynasty declared northern Yemen an independent sovereign state. In 1926, Yahya proclaimed the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, becoming both a temporal king as well as a (Zaydi) spiritual leader, and won international recognition for his new state, such as with the Kingdom of Italy, entering into the Italo-Yemeni Treaty in 1926.


In the 1920s, Yahya had expanded his power to the north into Tihamah and 'Asir, but he collided with the rising influence of the Saudi king of Nejd and Hejaz, Abdul Aziz ibn Sa'ud. In the early 1930s, Saudi forces retook much of these gains before withdrawing from some of the area, including the southern Tihamah city of Al Hudaydah. The present-day boundary with Saudi Arabia was established by the 20 May 1934 Treaty of Taif, following the Saudi-Yemeni War in 1934. Yahya's non-recognition of his kingdom's southern boundary with the British Aden Protectorate (later the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen) that had been negotiated by his Ottoman predecessors resulted in occasional clashes with the British.

In 1932, the governments of Yemen and the Kingdom of Iraq signed a treaty which led to the training of Yemeni Army officers in Iraq. Later, several of them would play a key role in the 1962 coup d'état in North Yemen. [1]

The Kingdom of Yemen became a founding member of the Arab League in 1945 and joined the United Nations on 30 September 1947. It committed a small expeditionary force to the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. [2]

Instability and decline

Imam Yahya was assassinated in an unsuccessful coup d'état in 1948 but was eventually succeeded by a firm heir - Yahya's son, Imam Ahmad bin Yahya, who regained power several months later. His reign was marked by growing development, openness and renewed friction with the United Kingdom over the British presence in the south that stood in the way of his aspirations for the creation of Greater Yemen. He was slightly more forward-thinking than his father and was more open to foreign contacts. Nonetheless, his regime, like his father's, was autocratic and semi-medieval in character; even the most mundane measures required his personal approval.

In March 1955, a coup by a group of officers and two of Ahmad's brothers briefly deposed the king but was quickly suppressed. Ahmad faced growing pressures, supported by the Arab nationalism objectives of President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser and, in April 1956, he signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt. In 1958, Yemen joined the United Arab Republic (a federation of Egypt and Syria) in a confederation known as the United Arab States, but this confederation was dissolved soon after Syria withdrew from the United Arab Republic and the United Arab States in September 1961. Relations between Egypt and Yemen subsequently deteriorated.

Imam Ahmad died in September 1962 and was succeeded by his son, the Crown Prince Muhammad al-Badr, whose reign was brief. Egyptian-trained military officers inspired by Nasser and led by the commander of the royal guard, Abdullah as-Sallal, deposed him the same year of his coronation, took control of Sana'a, and created the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR). This fighting sparked the North Yemen Civil War and created a new front in the Arab Cold War, in which Egypt assisted the YAR with troops and supplies to combat forces loyal to the imamate, while the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported Badr's royalist forces opposing the newly formed republic. Conflict continued periodically until 1967 when Egyptian troops were withdrawn. By 1968, following a final royalist siege of Sana'a, most of the opposing leaders reached a reconciliation, and Saudi Arabia recognized the republic in 1970.


See also

Related Research Articles

History of Yemen Aspect of history

Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Its relatively fertile land and adequate rainfall in a moister climate helped sustain a stable population, a feature recognized by the ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy, who described Yemen as Eudaimon Arabia meaning "fortunate Arabia" or "Happy Arabia". Yemenis had developed the South Arabian alphabet by the 12th to 8th centuries BCE, which explains why most historians date all of the ancient Yemeni kingdoms to that era.

Yemen Country on the Arabian Peninsula

Yemen, officially the Republic of Yemen, is a country at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is the second-largest Arab sovereign state in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 square kilometres. The coastline stretches for about 2,000 kilometres. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Guardafui Channel to the south, and Oman to the east. Yemen's territory encompasses more than 200 islands, including the Socotra islands in the Guardafui Channel. Yemen is characterized as a failed state with high necessity of transformation. Yemen's constitutionally stated capital is the city of Sanaa, but the city has been under Houthi rebel control since February 2015 as well as Aden, which is also controlled by the Southern Transitional Council since 2018. Its executive administration resides in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Zaidiyyah, Zaidism, or Zaidi Shiasm (Arabic: الزيدية‎ az-zaydiyya, adjective form Zaidi or Zaydi is one of the Shia sects closest in terms of theology to the Ibadi and Mutazila schools. Zaidiyyah emerged in the eighth century from Shi'a Islam. Zaidis are named after Zayd ibn ʻAlī, the grandson of Husayn ibn ʻAlī and the son of the fourth Imam Ali ibn 'Husain. Followers of the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence are called Zaydi Shia and make up about 50% of Muslims in Yemen, with the greatest majority of Shia Muslims in that country being of the Zaydi school of thought.

Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din Imam of Yemen

Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din became Imam of the Zaydis in 1904 after the death of his father, Muhammad Al-Mansur, and Imam of Yemen in 1918. His name and title in full was "His majesty Amir al-Mumenin al-Mutawakkil 'Ala Allah Rab ul-Alamin Imam Yahya bin al-Mansur Bi'llah Muhammad Hamidaddin, Imam and Commander of the Faithful".

Yemen Arab Republic former country

The Yemen Arab Republic, also known as North Yemen or Yemen (Sanaʽa), was a country from 1962 to 1990 in the western part of what is now Yemen. Its capital was at Sanaʽa. It united with the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, on May 22, 1990, to form the current Republic of Yemen.

Abdul Rahman al-Eryani President of North Yemen

Abdul Rahman Yahya Al-Eryani was President of the Yemen Arab Republic from 5 November 1967 to 13 June 1974. Originally a leader of the Free Yemeni Movement (Al-Ahrar) opposition group during the time of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, al-Eryani served as Minister of Religious Endowments under North Yemen's first republican government and later became the only civilian politician to have led Northern Yemen. He was eventually overthrown by Ibrahim al-Hamdi and died in exile.

Muhammad al-Badr Prince of the Muttawakilite Kingdom of Yemen, Imam

Muhammad Al-Badr was the last king and Zaidi Imam of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen and leader of the monarchist regions during the North Yemen Civil War (1962–1970). His full name was Al-Mansur Bi'llah Muhammad Al-Badr bin Al-Nasir-li-dinu'llah Ahmad, Imam and Commander of the Faithful and King of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of the Yemen.

Ahmad bin Yahya King and Imam of Yemen

Ahmad bin Yahya Hamidaddin was the penultimate king of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, who reigned from 1948 to 1962. His full name and title was H.M. al-Nasir-li-Dinullah Ahmad bin al-Mutawakkil 'Alallah Yahya, Imam and Commander of the Faithful, and King of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of the Yemen.

Greater Yemen South of the Arabian Peninsula

Greater Yemen is a geographic term denoting territories of historic South Arabia which included the present territory of the Republic of Yemen as well as the Saudi regions of 'Asir, Najran, Jizan, adjacent islands in the Red Sea, adjacent parts of Tihamah and the Omani governorate of Dhofar.

North Yemen Civil War 1962–1970 civil war in North Yemen

The North Yemen Civil War was fought in North Yemen from 1962 to 1970 between partisans of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom and supporters of the Yemen Arab Republic. The war began with a coup d'état carried out in 1962 by revolutionary republicans led by the army under the command of Abdullah as-Sallal, who dethroned the newly crowned Imam Muhammad al-Badr and declared Yemen a republic under his presidency. The Imam escaped to the Saudi Arabian border where he rallied popular support from northern Shia tribes to retake power, escalating rapidly to a full-scale civil war.

The Saudi–Yemeni War was a war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 1934.

Islamic history of Yemen

Islam came to Yemen around 630 during Muhammad's lifetime and the rule of the Persian governor Badhan. Thereafter, Yemen was ruled as part of Arab-Islamic caliphates, and became a province in the Islamic empire.

The modern history of Yemen began with the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire. In 1839 the British set up a protective area around the southern port of Aden and in 1918 the northern Kingdom of Yemen gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. North Yemen became a republic in 1962, but it was not until 1967 that the British Empire withdrew from what became South Yemen. In 1970, the southern government adopted a communist governmental system. The two countries were formally united as the Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990.


The Imams of Yemen and later the Kings of Yemen were religiously consecrated leaders belonging to the Zaidiyyah branch of Shia Islam. They established a blend of religious and secular rule in parts of Yemen from 897. Their imamate endured under varying circumstances until the republican revolution in 1962. Zaidiyyah theology differed from Ismailis or Twelver Shi'ites by stressing the presence of an active and visible imam as leader. The imam was expected to be knowledgeable in religious sciences, and to prove himself a worthy headman of the community, even in battle if this was necessary. A claimant of the imamate would proclaim a "call" (da'wa), and there were not infrequently more than one claimant. The historian Ibn Khaldun mentions the clan that usually provided the imams as the Banu Rassi or Rassids. In the original Arab sources the term Rassids is otherwise hardly used; in Western literature it usually refers to the Imams of the medieval period, up to the 16th century. The Rassid branch that came to power with imam al-Mansur al-Qasim is known as Qasimids.

Sanaa Capital of Yemen

Sanaa, also spelled Sanaʽa or Sana, is the largest city in Yemen and the centre of Sanaa Governorate. The city is not part of the Governorate, but forms the separate administrative district of "Amanat Al-Asemah". Under the Yemeni constitution, Sanaʽa is the capital of the country, although the seat of the Yemeni government moved to Aden in the aftermath of the Houthi occupation. Aden was declared as the temporary capital by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in March 2015.

Imams of Yemen

The Imams of Yemen and later the Kings of Yemen were religiously consecrated leaders belonging to the Zaidiyyah branch of Shia Islam. They established a blend of religious and secular rule in parts of Yemen from 897. Their imamate endured under varying circumstances until the republican revolution in 1962. Zaidiyyah theology differed from Isma'ili or Twelver Shi'ites by stressing the presence of an active and visible imam as leader. The imam was expected to be knowledgeable in religious scholarship, and to prove himself a worthy headman of the community, even in battle if this was necessary. A claimant of the imamate would proclaim a "call" (da'wa), and there were not infrequently more than one claimant.

The Treaty of Daan was an agreement signed in October 1911 at Daan in the Yemen Vilayet by a representative of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Imam Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din, the Zaydi Imam of Yemen expanding autonomy in the areas of the Ottoman province inhabited by the Zaydis, and ending the Yemeni–Ottoman Conflicts.

Yemen Vilayet Ottoman province

Yemen Vilayet was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the 20th century it reportedly had an area of 200,000 square kilometres (77,200 sq mi). The population for the vilayet is given by the 1885 Ottoman census as 2,500,000.

The Alwaziri coup, also referred as the Yahia clan coup was a violent dynasty overthrow attempt in the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen in 1948, which created a great deal of violence and ended with around 5,000 fatalities. During the coup attempt, Imam Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din, the ruler of the kingdom, was killed and the rival Sayyid family, the Alwazirs, seized power for several weeks. Backed by the al-Saud family of Saudi Arabia, the Hamidaddins restored their rule. After deposition of the Alwaziris, the restored monarchy of Imam Yahya was succeeded by his son Ahmad bin Yahya.

Yemeni–Ottoman conflicts

The Yemeni–Ottoman conflicts were a series of conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and Zaidi tribes in Upper Yemen, which began in 1538 and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Daan on 9 October 1911.


  1. Robert D. Burrowes: Historical Dictionary of Yemen, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press 2000, p. 190.
  2. Morris, Benny (2008), 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War, Yale University Press, p.205, New Haven, ISBN   978-0-300-12696-9.