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Al-Islah (Yemen)

Yemeni Congregation for Reform

التجمع اليمني للإصلاح
ChairpersonMohammed al-Yadumi
Deputy ChairpersonAbdul Wahab al-Ansi
FoundersAbdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar[1][dead link]
Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar[2]
Abdul Majeed al-Zindani[1]
Mohammed al-Yadumi[3]
Founded13 September 1990
(29 years ago)
HeadquartersSana'a, Yemen
IdeologySunni Islamism[1]
International affiliationMuslim Brotherhood
Colours     Blue
House of Representatives
44 / 301
Party flag
Logo of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Islah).svg
Al-Islah militia
ميليشيا الإصلاح
Participant in Yemeni Civil War (2015-present)
StatusDenied by Al-Islah[4]
Area of operationsYemen
Allies Saudi Arabia
Opponent(s) Houthis
Battles and war(s)Yemeni Civil War (2015-present)

The Yemeni Congregation for Reform, frequently called al-Islah (pronounced [alʔisˤlaːħ]; Arabic: التجمع اليمني للإصلاحat-Tajammu’u al-Yamanī lil-Iṣlāḥ), is a Yemeni Islamist party founded in 1990 by Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, Mohammed al-Yadumi and Yahya Rassam.[5] The first article of Islah basic law defines it as "a popular political organization that seeks reform of all aspects of life on the basis of Islamic principles and teachings".[6]

Islah is more of a loose coalition of tribal and religious elements than a political party.[7] Its origins are in the Islamic Front, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated militia funded by Saudi Arabia to combat the Marxist National Democratic Front.[8][9] The Islamic Front regrouped after the unification of Yemen in 1990 under the banner of the Islah Party with considerable financial backing from Saudi Arabia.[8] Islah has long been identified as a client of Saudi Arabia.[10][11] In its official website, Islah summarizes its foreign policy agenda; one of five major goals is "strengthening our country’s relations with sister Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council."[12] In addition, Saudi Arabia financed the so-called "scientific institutes", Wahhabi Madrasas that were informally controlled by Islah.[13][14] Militant Islam arose in Yemen as a result of substantial Saudi funding.[15]

Islah differs from most other Arab Islamists. The party combines tribal influences along with those of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood and more radical Wahhabi groups. As a result, it faces deep internal divisions on key issues. Its fractious composition prevents it from developing a clear parliamentary platform, forcing it instead to balance tribal and political interests, differing interpretations of the party’s Islamist platform, and both loyalist and opposition constituencies.[16] Given its origin as an alliance, Islah's ideology remains vague and its political platform ambiguous. Islah could be best described as a conservative party that promotes tribal and religious values.[6]

The Joint Meeting Parties came into existence in 2003 when Islah and the socialist party joined three other smaller parties to establish a joint opposition to the ruling general people's congress.[17] At the last legislative elections, 27 April 2003, the party won 22.6% of the popular vote and 46 out of 301 seats.

The party is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain,[18][19] Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.[20][21][22][23] However, since the civil war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has forged closer relations with Al-Islah.[24]


The party was created on 13 September 1990 in Sana'a, Yemen, by the tribal sheikh Abdullah Al Ahmar.[25]

General structure, leadership

Al-Islah has been described as consisting of three components. The first is the political faction, Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood, led by Mohammed Qahtan. The second is the tribal confederacy which was led by top tribal chief Abdullah Al Ahmar until his death in 2007 at which time he was succeeded by his son Sadeq.[26] The third is the Salafi movement, led by the country’s most prominent Sunni religious scholar, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani.[1][27] Muhammad Al-Yadomi succeeded Al Ahmar as the head of the party following his death on 28 December 2007.[25]

In the 2003 parliamentary election, Al-Islah won 46 seats. As of 2010, 13 of Al-Islah's parliament members were women, including human rights activist and Nobel laureate Tawakel Karman,[28][29] who created the activist group Women Journalists Without Chains in 2005[30] and became the first Yemeni and Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

As of 2014 the party was the second biggest political party after the General People’s Congress (GPC).[25]



Al-Islah says that those thinking of fighting for the Yemeni government against the Shia insurgency of the Houthis should instead keep well out of the war because Yemenis must not help Yemen's pro-Western government, which deserves to be overthrown.[31]

Al-Islah is agitating, at the moment, against a draft amendment to the constitution of Yemen that could allow the president to run for life. The party was also involved in organising demonstrations for the 2011 Yemeni protests.[28]


The party has two major media outlets, Al Sahwa, an Arabic daily newspaper, and Suhail TV.[32] The latter is owned by Hamid al-Ahmar, a relative of the party's founder.[32]

Relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE

The party was blacklisted by Saudi Arabia in March 2014 due to its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.[25] Since the death of former King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia has repaired relations with Al-Islah, due to their role in fighting the Houthis during the Yemeni Civil War.[24] In December 2017, Islah leaders Al-Yidoumi and Al-Anisi met with the crown princes of Saudi Araba and Abu Dhabi (part of the UAE) in the Saudi capital Riyadh to discuss the Yemeni war.[33] Before that, the UAE had publicly opposed Al-Islah,[34] and it was later claimed that the UAE hired American mercenaries to assassinate people like Al-Islah leader Mayo.[35][36][37] In December 2018, it was reported that Islamist political parties like Al-Islah and jihadi militant groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (Isis) were the main targets of the UAE, with the Houthis no longer being regarded as the greatest enemy of the UAE, with the Saudis being unable to do anything about it.[38]

Electoral history

House of Representatives elections

Election Party leader Votes % Seats +/– Position
1993 Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar 382,545 17.14%
62 / 301
Increase 62 Increase 2nd
1997 Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar 637,728 23.4%
53 / 301
Decrease 9 Steady 2nd
2003 Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar 1,333,394 22.55%
46 / 301
Decrease 7 Steady 2nd

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Yemen: The Tribal Islamists". 2015. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  2. ^ Sarah Phillips (2008). Yemen's Democracy Experiment in Regional Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 52. ISBN 9780230616486.
  3. ^ Stephen W. Day (2012). Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen: A Troubled National Union. Cambridge University Press. p. 134. ISBN 9781107379909.
  4. ^ []
  5. ^ "قيادي بالإصلاح: صنعاء لم تسقط بل سُلمت للحوثيين". (in Arabic). Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b Nathan J. Brown; Amr Hamzawy (2010). Between Religion and Politics. Carnegie Endowment. p. 137. ISBN 9780870032974.
  7. ^ Daniel Brumberg; Dina Shehata (209). Conflict, Identity, and Reform in the Muslim World: Challenges for U.S. Engagement. US Institute of Peace Press. p. 431. ISBN 9781601270207.
  8. ^ a b Sarah Phillips (2008). Yemen's Democracy Experiment in Regional Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 138. ISBN 9780230616486.
  9. ^ Stephen W. Day (2012). Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen, A Troubled National Union. Cambridge University Press. p. 133. ISBN 9781107606593.
  10. ^ Letta Tayler (2011). "Yemen's Hijacked Revolution". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  11. ^ Sheila Carapico (2007). Civil Society in Yemen: The Political Economy of Activism in Modern Arabia. Cambridge University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9780521034821.
  12. ^ "The Islah Party". Islamopedia Online. 2012. Archived from the original on 7 April 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  13. ^ David McMurray; Amanda Ufheil-Somers (2013). The Arab Revolts: Dispatches on Militant Democracy in the Middle East. Indiana University Press. p. 140. ISBN 0253009782.
  14. ^ Farish A. Noor; Yoginder Sikand; Martin van Bruinessen. The Madrasa in Asia: Political Activism and Transnational Linkages. Amsterdam University Press. p. 267. ISBN 9789053567104.
  15. ^ Julie Chernov Hwang; Julie Chernov-Hwang (2012). Peaceful Islamist Mobilization in the Muslim World: What Went Right. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 157. ISBN 9781137016232.
  16. ^ Amr Hamzawy (2009). "Between Government and Opposition: The Case of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform" (PDF). Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  17. ^ Francesco Cavatorta (2012). Civil Society Activism under Authoritarian Rule: A Comparative Perspective. Routledge. p. 146. ISBN 9781136207815.
  18. ^ "Bahrain News Agency - Bahrain backs Saudi Arabia, UAE, Foreign Minister says". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  19. ^ Anadolu Ajansı (c) 2011. "Bahrain FM reiterates stance on Muslim Brotherhood". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  20. ^ "Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood declared 'terrorist group'". 25 December 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  21. ^ "Resolution of the State Duma, 2 December 2003 N 3624-III GD "on the Application of the State Duma of the Russian Federation" on the suppression of the activities of terrorist organizations on the territory of the Russian Federation" (in Russian). Consultant Plus. Archived from the original on 1 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Saudi Arabia declares Muslim Brotherhood 'terrorist group'". BBC. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  23. ^ Alaa Shahine and Glen Carey, Bloomberg News (9 March 2014). "U.A.E. Supports Saudi Arabia Against Qatar-Backed Brotherhood". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  24. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia's Problematic Allies against the Houthis". The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. 14 February 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  25. ^ a b c d Ali Ibrahim Al Moshki (13 March 2014). "Saudi Arabia blacklists Yemeni groups". Yemen Times. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  26. ^ "Ruling party defies Al-Ahmar family, threatens unity of Hashid tribe". Elaf. 17 November 2009. Archived from the original on 5 April 2011.
  27. ^ Yemen: An Election Realignment Archived 7 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine STRATFOR, 20 September 2006
  28. ^ a b "New protests erupt in Yemen". Al Jazeera. 29 January 2011. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  29. ^ "The United States & Yemen – Destroying Lives in the Name of National Security". Brecht Forum. 2010. Archived from the original on 1 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  30. ^ Al-Sakkaf, Nadia (17 June 2010). "Renowned activist and press freedom advocate Tawakul Karman to the Yemen Times: "A day will come when all human rights violators pay for what they did to Yemen"". Women Journalists Without Chains. Archived from the original on 30 January 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  31. ^ Camp, Mazrak (19 November 2009). "Yemen's War – Pity those caught in the middle". The Economist. Archived from the original on 16 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  32. ^ a b "Government Raids Suhail TV Station and Newspaper". Yemen Post. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  33. ^ "Saudi and UAE leaders meet Yemen Islah party chairman". 17 December 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  34. ^ "Saudi-Emirati overture on Yemen deepens Houthi isolation". 15 December 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  35. ^ "American mercenary boasts of role in 'targeted assassination program' in Yemen". 17 October 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  36. ^ "Abbas rival 'hired Israeli mercenary to assassinate UAE's enemies in Yemen'". 17 October 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  37. ^ Roston, Aram (16 October 2018). "A Middle East Monarchy Hired American Ex-Soldiers To Kill Its Political Enemies. This Could Be The Future Of War". Buzzfeed News. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  38. ^ "Yemen on the brink: how the UAE is profiting from the chaos of civil war". The Guardian. 21 December 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2018.

External links