When the Houthis from the northern highlands laid siege on Yemen’s capital, in the south thousands took to the streets to announce their opposition to the new order in Sanaa. Separatist sentiments remain high here, and memories of an independent south Yemen, the Arab world’s only Marxist state, are not such a distant memory. Yet with the resignation of Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a southerner, a nerve had been twisted. When the news was announced, the streets of the south erupted in anger and calls for solidarity were made. Quickly a sense of dissociation with their countrymen in the north became apparent. Based on this sad historical background, it is normal for unity to be a negative symbol and for separation to be popular in the south, but most of those who call for separation are either patriotic dreamers or opportunists. They justify their desire by saying it is a restoration of the natural historical situation when there were two Yemens for most of the past centuries. They believe that the north suffers from crises that are difficult to resolve, and that it is better not to export them to the south.
Some may find these arguments convincing enough to support separation as an easier solution to today’s crisis, which required a massive war to stop the collapse of Yemen. Some may think that separation is the only solution if it is hard to liberate Yemen of rebels, Houthis and Saleh’s troops within a reasonable timeframe. However Dividing Yemen into two states, and perhaps more states later, means the entrance of regional and foreign powers in a struggle that will last for decades. This will threaten the security of the Gulf states, increase regional tensions and wars for years to come, and make 25 million Yemenis suffer from long-term infighting, misery and poverty. Separation is a destructive and stupid idea in a world that prefers rapprochement. Refusing to support it does not deny the right to separate later if that is really the desire of the entire Yemeni people, not just a few of them. One can address achieving this desire when there is stability, and when everyone can rationally think and decide what serves their interests in the long run. Perhaps they would choose a federal system that maintains the state. Separation is an idea produced by an emotional outburst, or resulting from instantaneous revenge.