The Azal region is one of the six Yemeni regions with the largest, most complicated and most sensitive mixture of problems and challenges. The region enjoys an apparent harmony due to the domination of the tribal structure on the population. But this harmony embodies a number of problems and challenges, which basically stem from the strong presence and involvement of the tribe in the political and social affairs. The tribes are involved in the ongoing political struggle as well as the tribal infighting, such as the struggle with the Houthis and struggle over centers of power. Tribes in Azal are distributed among the various and most influential centers of power in the country. In addition to being the major source of fighters and mercenaries in the political and non-political struggles, the Azal region hosts the biggest non-official arsenal of weapons in the country’s history. Furthermore, the region is the scene for the major activity for arms smuggling and trade and hosts the most important market for this trade. The Azal region also suffers from an unprecedented sectarian tension, which makes it the first candidate for a sectarian struggle. As for its relationship with the state, the problems and challenges faced by Azal have a national dimension. The state’s problems in this region do not stem from these evolving challenges only, but from doing nothing to tackle them as well. Some of Azal’s problems have an external dimension due to its proximity to Saudi Arabia, which makes it the scene for the raging Sunni-Shiite competition and confrontation between the Tehran and Riyadh axes.
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