Yemen’s south witnessed a surprising, but not entirely unpredictable, incident last month when the United Arab Emirates — a member of a pro-government military coalition fighting Houthi rebels in the north — carried out a series of deadly airstrikes in Aden that targeted Yemen’s national army. In doing so, the UAE was seen as turning away from the government it was meant to support in favor of a southern Yemeni separatist faction.
Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi called on Saudi Arabia to intervene to stop what he deemed UAE interference. The event brought unprecedented attention to the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), whose aim is to reestablish an independent southern state along the pre-1990 borders of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. While the voices of secessionists and STC supporters are amplified over social media and in massive rallies in Aden, southerners who call for unity and national sovereignty are less likely to make headlines.