Yemen's troubles are our own concern, too

Beatrice Yeung, Hong Kong International School
Beatrice Yeung, Hong Kong International School |

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A wave of popular demonstrations has been sweeping through the Arab world. Yemen has also been caught up in mass protests demanding reform and democracy.

For months, the country has been virtually shut down by the nationwide protests. Yemen's economy is on the verge of collapse.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda is fighting security forces to gain control over various regions of the country.

The Yemeni uprising has far-reaching consequences for the region and the world. We should all be concerned about its outcome.

The uprising was initially triggered by disgruntled young people who wanted democracy in their country. Yet militants and shady political powers have been trying to use the protests for their own ends.

The crisis "has cost the economy as much as US$8 billion, and immediate aid is needed to prevent a collapse and failure of the state", said Hisham Sharaf, Yemen's minister for trade and industry.

Thousands of people have been left homeless and normal life in the country has come to a standstill.

Yemen is one of the Arab world's poorest countries. It is a perfect recruiting base for Islamic militants. The fear is that the country will be taken over by fundamentalists.

Yemen has long played a role in America's "war on terror".

Both the United States and Saudi Arabia have raised concerns that al-Qaeda might successfully hijack the local uprising. That would have dire consequences. It would upset regional politics and threaten Western interests.

Ironically, the fall of the country's dictator, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, could usher in something even worse: a collapse of the country, which could spark a bloody civil war among Yemen's warring tribes.

The presence of foreign Islamic militants would add a further spark to the explosive mix.

Yemen's problems are not just domestic. They pose a great threat to regional and international stability and progress.