Today marks the anniversary of the September 26 Revolution of 1962, also known as the North Yemeni Revolution.
On 26 September 1962, a revolutionary movement that was inspired by the policies of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Arab liberation movement, launched an uprising against the monarchy ruling over Yemen.
Although Yemen was nominally a democratic theocracy led by an elected Imam, since 1948 rule over the country had passed on from father to son within the Mutawakkilite family, turning the system into a de facto absolute monarchy.
There was also considerable unrest in Yemen about the impoverished state of the people and the increasing influence of Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi preachers on Yemeni politics and society.
King Ahmad bin Yahya, who had founded the absolutist system and ruled with an iron fist since 1948, died in September 1962,. When Ahmad’s son Muhammad al-Badr also took over power without any electoral process, the Republican movement decided that it was time to act. On September 26, armed forces loyal to the revolutionary cause opened fire on the royal palace, officially heralding the start of the September 26 Revolution.
While the Revolution was originally swift and relatively non-violent, the civil war that followed would last up until 1970. The royalists, led by king Muhammad al-Badr, received extensive military and material support from Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the US and Israel. With the extensive support of these powers and thorough knowledge of the mountainous terrain, the royalists would hold out for years.
The revolutionaries meanwhile proclaimed the Yemen Arab Republic under the leadership of the popular Abdullah as-Sallal, and established control over the most populated areas of Yemen. Supported by Egypt and the Soviet Union, the forces of the Yemen Arab Republic gradually pushed back the royalists.
In 1970, Saudi Arabia eventually withdrew its support for the royalist cause, and recognized the republic. However, in the coming decades the Saudi kingdom would gradually step up efforts once again in order to get a foothold in Yemen, culminating in the March 2015 Saudi invasion.
September 26 is an official holiday in Yemen, and is commemorated yearly by honouring the fallen and remembering the struggle for the establishment of the republic.
The revolutionary National Salvation Government of Yemen, and Ansarullah in particular, have stated on numerous occasions that their objective is to complete the Revolution of September 26, by establishing a truly free and democratic Republic of Yemen, released from the shackles of Saudi influence and foreign imperialism.
Republican soldiers carrying a revolutionary banner with an image of President Abdullah as-Sallal
The monument to the Egyptian martyrs in Sana’a, Yemen
An Egyptian military instructor teaching a Yemeni Republican soldier on the workings of a Soviet Mosin-Nagant rifle
Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser visiting Sana’a and being met by Yemeni president Abdullah as-Sallal, greeted by enthusiastic crowds.
A group of the Revolution’s leaders in October 1962. Abdullah al-Sallal is in the centre.
British mercenaries building up defences for Royalist forces in northern Yemen.
King Muhammad al-Badr with his cousin Hassan and a group of royalist troops