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28 June 2013


Yemen: Al-Hirak Al-Janoubi (Southern Movement), including its structure, leadership, objectives, members, activities, and area of operation; relationship with government (May 2008-April 2013)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

Al-Hirak Al-Janoubi (Southern Movement) [also spelled al-Hirak al-Janubi, Al-Herak Al-Janoubi, Al Harakat al Janubi or al-Harakat al-Janubiyya] is also referred to as:

  • Southern Mobility Movement (US 22 Mar. 2011, 26; Islamopedia n.d.a)
  • South Yemen Movement, the Peaceful Southern Movement or theSouthern Separatist Movement (TRAC n.d.).
  • al-Hirak [also spelled Al-Harak] (Day 14 Mar. 2013; UN 5 Sept. 2012, 6; Islamopedia n.d.a)
  • Hirak [also spelled Hiraak] (US 30 May 2013; The Yemen Times 23 May 2013; TRAC n.d.).

According to Yemen-iaty: Yemen Simplified, a website dedicated to the analysis of Yemeni current affairs and run by a Washington, DC-based journalist and researcher who has also written extensively on Yemeni topics for various media sources (Atlantic Council n.d.), the Southern Movement first used the name Al Hirak Al Janoubi Al Silmi (Peaceful Southern Movement) when it first emerged (Yeman-iaty 26 Feb. 2013). According to a report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC non-profit think tank that focuses on both American and international public policy (Brookings Institution n.d.), the name Al-Harak "literally means 'mobilization'" (ibid. Feb. 2013, 11).

The Southern Movement is described as a "broad movement" (UN 10 Mar. 2011), a "loose" coalition (Alley 31 Oct. 2012; PHW 2012, 1607) and an "amorphous umbrella group" (The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; Alley 31 Oct. 2012). Sources further characterize the Southern Movement as a "secessionist movement" based in southern Yemen (UN 10 Mar. 2011), a gathering of "separatist" groups (PHW 2012, 1607; Horizons 23 Aug. 2010), "a political movement calling for self-determination for South Yemen" (UN 5 Sept. 2012, 6) and "a fractious group that wants autonomy" (TRAC n.d.).

The Southern Movement reportedly became known in 2007 (UN 5 Sept. 2012, 6; Day 14 Mar. 2013; SWP Feb. 2012). According to a report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the movement first emerged to protest the disenfranchisement of military officers from the south following the Yemeni civil war in 1994 (UN 5 Sept. 2012, 6). The Jamestown Foundation corroborates this information (7 Feb. 2013). Sources indicate that the Southern Movement has since grown as a result of resentment towards the Northern part of the country (The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; UN 10 Mar. 2011). According to an article by the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), the emergence and growth of the Southern Movement "is seen as the direct result of the north's refusal to listen to southern grievances, and the monopolization of senior local positions and economic power by northerners aligned to the ruling party" (ibid.).

Sources reports that there are divisions within the Southern Movement (The Yemen Times 23 May 2013; Alley 31 Oct. 2012; Horizons 23 Aug. 2010). Different factions within the movement call for greater autonomy of the southern part of Yemen, while others call for complete independence (Alley 31 Oct. 2012; Horizons 23 Aug. 2010).

2. Structure

According to Islamopedia Online, an Internet site run by academics who provide news and analysis related to Muslim countries and Islamic topics with the support of Harvard University, the National Center for Scientific Research of France, the American Social Science Research Council, the Minerva Fellowship and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung [Foundation] (Islamopedia Online n.d.b), the Southern Movement "lacks an overarching structure and cannot accurately be described as one movement, although its many component groups emphasize their unity of purpose" (Islamopedia Online n.d.a). A report by the US Congressional Research Service likewise states that the movement is "decentralized," but notes that "it is organized into local committees, and there is a rudimentary central body to coordinate protest activities" (US 22 Mar. 2011, 26).

Yemen-iaty explains that while the Southern Movement first emerged as "a simple movement with a distinct leadership," as of February 2013, the movement had "too many leaders to keep track of" (Yemen-iaty 26 Feb. 2013). However, sources note that prominent leaders of the movement include Ali Salim Al-Beidh [also spelled al Bid or al Bidh], who resides outside the country (Yemen-iaty 26 Feb. 2013; The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; US 22 Mar. 2011, 26). Yemen-iaty adds that another prominent leader is Hassan Ba'oum (26 Feb. 2013). Other principal leaders include Muhammad Ali Ahmad [also spelled Mohammed Ali Ahmed] (The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; Yemen-iaty 26 Feb. 2013) and Nasser Al-Noubah (ibid.). The Yemen Times, a daily newspaper, also describes Colonel Nasser Al-Nobah as "the founder" of the Southern Movement (23 May 2013). However, according to Yemen-iaty, all these leaders consider themselves to be the founders of the movement and do not agree with each other (26 Feb. 2013).

According to the Brookings Institution report, there are three strands within the Southern Movement: one that calls for complete separation from the North, one that wants the region to enter into a federation with the North, and one that wants southern grievances to be addressed while staying united with the North (Brookings Institution Feb. 2013, 11). The UN High Commissioner's report similarly states that, as of summer 2012, there were "three factions of al-Hirak, with political demands ranging from federalism and self-determination through to outright secession" (UN 5 Sept. 2012, 6). However, Yemen-iaty instead makes a distinction between a "radical" and a "moderate" division within the movement (26 Feb. 2013). According to the site, while the moderate faction is open to dialogue, the more radical faction rejects everything about the North of Yemen and wants a complete disengagement from it (26 Feb. 2013). Yemen-iaty also says that there are "several operating militias" within the more "radical" faction (ibid.).

According to the Political Handbook of the World (PHW) 2012, the Southern Movement consists of "at least" the following "seven identifiable separatist groups":

  • Higher National Forum for the Independence of the South;
  • Higher National Council for the Liberation of the South, led by Hasan Baoum and Mohammed Salih Tammah;
  • Movement of the Southern Peaceful Struggle, led by Salah al-Shanfara and Nasser al-Khubbaji (both members of Yemen's House of Representatives and the [Yemeni Socialist Party]);
  • Union of the Southern Youth, led by Fadi Hasan Baoum (son of Hasan Baoum);
  • National Forum for the Southern Peaceful Struggle, led by Salih Yahya Said;
  • Council for Leading the Peaceful Revolution, led by Tariq al-Fadhli;
  • Council of the Peaceful Movement to Liberate the South, established in 2010 as an umbrella organization for all Southern opposition groups, and ostensibly led by Hasan Baoum and Tariq al-Fadhli. (PHW 2012, 1607)

Islamopedia Online likewise says that according to 2010 research, the above seven groups are the most influential ones among those composing the Southern Movement (n.d.a). Islamopedia Online adds that the Movement of the Southern Peaceful Struggle, also known as the Success Movement, and the Council for Leading the Peaceful Revolution have the most followers (ibid.).

According to the IRIN article, the Southern Movement "is particularly strong outside [the southern city of] Aden, where state control is weak" (UN 10 Mar. 2011). Corroboration could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

3. Activities

Sources indicate that the Southern Movement has generally used peaceful methods (The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; Islamopedia Online n.d.a). In an article published in the Foreign Policy magazine, an assistant professor of political science at Stetson University in Florida notes that the movement has used "peaceful forms of resistance" since its emergence (Day 14 Mar. 2013). The Jamestown Foundation reports that in January, large numbers of people demonstrated in Aden while calling for secession (7 Feb. 2013). The Yemen Times also reported on 23 May 2013 that very large numbers of Southern Movement members called for regional secession during a peaceful demonstration in Arden (23 May 2013).

Yemen-iaty nonetheless notes that while some members of the movement maintain a "peaceful standpoint, there are many radicals who are waiting for the right time to start an armed conflict" (Yemen-iaty 26 Feb. 2013). In addition, there are allegations of links between the Southern Movement and Al-Qaeda (The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; Horizons 23 Aug. 2010). However, the Jamestown Foundation notes that this could be due to efforts by the Yemeni government to discredit the movement (7 Feb. 2013).

4. Relationship with the Government

According to the US Country Reports on Terrorism for 2012, "Yemeni government officials [have] accused some pro-secessionist members of the Southern Movement (Hirak), of carrying out violent acts in the south" (US 30 May 2013). The report also says that "[s]enior security and military officials" have accused the Southern Movement of obtaining weapons and financial support from Iran in an effort to undermine the Yemen State (ibid.). An article from Horizons, an Algerian daily newspaper, also notes that the Yemeni government has accused Iran of supporting the Southern Movement (23 Aug. 2010). In his article published in Foreign Policy, the assistant professor says that the regime in power in Yemen for over thirty years until 2011 "tried to suppress al-Hirak, first using a campaign of arrests and then armed force" (Day 14 Mar. 2013).

The Yemen Times reports that "[s]ince the Southern Movement was established, as many as 2,000 Southerners have been killed in clashes between the Southern Movement and state security forces, according to some estimates" (23 May 2013). In particular, the Jamestown Foundation indicates that there are "[r]egular reports about clashes between armed elements of Yemen's 'Southern Movement' and security forces in the governorates of Lahij, Abyan, Al-Dali, Shabwah and Hadramawt" (7 Feb. 2013). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 adds that "[a]rmed clashes also took place between supporters of Hirak and government forces [...] in and around Aden" in 2012 (US 19 Apr. 2013, 15).

Country Reports 2012 adds that members and supporters of the Southern Movement have reportedly been subjected to kidnapping, arbitrary arrest and detention (US 19 Apr. 2013, 4, 8, 13). The Political Handbook notes in particular that the government arrested Southern Movement leader Hasan Baoum in 2011 (PHW 2012, 1604). Further information on Baoum's arrest could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Sources also note that there have been attempts of dialogue between the government and the movement (Day 14 Mar. 2013; Yemen-iaty 26 Feb. 2013; Alley 31 Oct. 2012). In particular, a National Dialogue Conference was held to address issues that Yemen is facing (The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; Day 14 Mar. 2013), which took place in March 2013 (ibid.). However, sources note the difficulty in getting the different factions within the Southern Movement to agree to participate in this national dialogue (The Jamestown Foundation 7 Feb. 2013; Day 14 Mar. 2013; Alley 31 Oct. 2012). Information on the outcome of this conference could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Alley, April Longley. 31 October 2012. "Triage for a Fracturing Yemen." Foreign Policy. <> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

Atlantic Council. N.d. "Sama'a Hamdani." <> [Accessed 27 June 2013]

Brookings Institution. February 2013. Ibrahim Sharqieh. A Lasting Peace? Yemen's Long Journey to National Reconciliation. Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, No. 7. <> [Accessed 24 June 2013]

_____. N.d. "About Brookings." <> [Accessed 26 June 2013]

Day, Stephen W. 14 March 2013. "Can Yemen Be a Nation United?" Foreign Policy. <> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

Horizons [Alger]. 23 August 2010. "Yémen : Aden contre Al-Qaïda, les Zaydites et les Sudistes." <> [Accessed 10 June 2013]

Islamopedia Online. N.d.a. "The Hirak Movement." < country-profile/yemen/political-landscape/hirak-movement?page=1> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

_____. N.d. b. "About Islamopedia Online." <> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

The Jamestown Foundation. 7 February 2013. Ludovico Carlino. "Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Looks to Benefit from a Resumption of North-South Hostilities in Yemen." Terrorism Monitor, Vol. 11, Issue 3. <> [Accessed 26 June 2013]

Political Handbook of the World 2012 (PHW). 2012. "Yemen." Edited by Tom Lansford. Washington, DC: CQ Press. <> [Accessed 20 June 2013]

Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP). February 2012. Edited by Muriel Asseburg. Protest, Revolt and Regime Change in the Arab World: Actors, Challenges, Implications and Policy Options. <> [Accessed 20 June 2013]

Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC). N.d. "Al-Herak Al-Janoubi (Hirak)." <> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

United Nations (UN). 5 September 2012. Human Rights Council. Situation of Human Rights in Yemen: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (A/HRC/21/37) <> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

_____10 March 2011. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Yemen: The View from Aden." <> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

United States (US). 30 May 2013. "Chapter 2. Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa Overview: Yemen." Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. <> [Accessed 20 June 2013]

_____. 19 April 2013. Department of State. "Yemen." Coutry Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. <> [Accessed 20 June 2013]

_____. 22 March 2011. Congressional Research Service. Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations. <> [Accessed 20 June 2013]

Yemen-iaty. 26 February 2013. Sama'a Al-Hamdani. "The Southern Hirak (2007-2013)." <> [Accessed 10 June 2013]

The Yemen Times. 23 May 2013. Ali Ibrahim Al-Moshki. "Millions-Strong Protest in Aden Calls For Secession." <> [Accessed 21 June 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet Sites, including: Al Jazeera; Amnesty International; Atlantic Council; British Broadcasting Corporation; Center for Strategic and International Studies;; Factiva;; Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group; Jane's Intelligence Review; Small Arms Survey; United Nations – Refworld.