is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security
Office of U.S. Embassy Sana’a, provisionally based at U.S. Embassy Riyadh,
Saudi Arabia and known as the Yemen Affairs Unit (YAU). OSAC encourages
travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Yemen. For
more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Yemen country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Yemen at Level
4, indicating travelers should not travel to the country due to terrorism,
civil unrest, health risks, kidnapping, armed conflict, and landmines. Review
OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Now in its
fifth year, Yemen’s civil conflict has exacerbated the world’s worst food
security emergency and cholera epidemic, and engendered a war economy
that further disadvantages the most vulnerable. The protracted war has drawn in
neighboring states; it has led to collapsed state institutions, local power
vacuums and ungoverned spaces that militias and terrorists are exploiting to
threaten close regional allies. The war has complicated ongoing counterterrorism
efforts and has provided Iran a space to pursue its own ambitions in Yemen,
further threatening regional stability.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Yemen as being a CRITICAL-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Due to the ongoing civil unrest throughout the country, travelers should not
rely on assistance from local authorities. The current conflict has caused the
deterioration and dislocation of Yemen’s security sector. The Houthis remain in
control of much of Yemen’s traditional military infrastructure and weapons
caches in the north. The Republic of Yemen Government
(ROYG) armed forces continue to reconstitute themselves, even as they
fight the Houthis and an expanded AQAP presence, in partnership with the
Saudi-led Coalition (SLC). The Fragile State Index ranks Yemen
as the world’s most fragile state due to the ongoing conflict, resulting
in an increased crime rate and a decrease in law enforcement. The
instability created by Yemen’s security, economic, and social
conditions has created a fertile environment for crime and
corruption both in the areas controlled by the Houthis and the internationally
recognized government. Despite the prevalence of checkpoints throughout the country,
criminal activities such as kidnapping, petty theft, carjacking, scams, abuses,
sexual harassment, assault, murder, violence, looting and robbery are
increasing at an alarming rate.
the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, both continue to occur
because most Yemenis working in law enforcement have not
received salaries for several years or are paid very
low salaries, fostering an environment ripe for corruption. Those in Houthi-controlled
areas have accused U.S. citizens of being spies for the U.S.
Government, subjecting them to strict surveillance and arbitrary
detention. Detainees face torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment
or punishment. Prison conditions are mostly harsh and life threatening, and do
not meet international standards. Burglaries and home invasions are becoming
more and more common, especially in the areas of direct conflict. SLC
airstrikes, Houthi mortar strikes, and direct confrontations among armed groups
in engagement zones cause civilian deaths.
2015, the SLC initiated an air campaign in support of the
internationally recognized Yemeni government. A nationwide cessation of
hostilities ended in 2016, and high levels of violence, to include
armed conflict, artillery shelling, and air strikes, persist in areas throughout
the country. Instability and ongoing threats in Yemen are at a severe level.
by road in Yemen is risky. Although there are traffic officers everywhere,
driving around Sana’a and all other Yemeni cities is extremely hazardous. Authorities
do not enforce standard driving and traffic rules, and drivers mostly ignore
the instructions and existence of traffic officers. It is common to see a
person driving on the wrong side of the road or at high rates of
speed. Vehicles mostly do not meet U.S. safety standards. Many
vehicles lack proper lighting or mirrors and are unlicensed. If they exist, traffic
lights may not be
in working condition, and streetlights are often
non-functioning due to a lack of electricity. Streets are
crowded with motorcycles, which mostly are unlicensed and used as taxis; motorcyclists are
often involved in accidents since they do not have dedicated
lanes and drivers do not obey the traffic rules. It is common to
find security checkpoints every 300 meters, which causes
crowding on the streets. It is common to see underage drivers or
heavy trucks moving in the main streets during the day. Street
hazards include large potholes, which are widespread due to a
lack of maintenance and unmarked speed bumps. Traveling on the
roads between cities can be very dangerous due to carjacking and
kidnapping, which mostly target foreigners; perpetrators often kill
victims of carjacking and kidnapping.
accidents are common due to a lack of obedience with basic traffic rules and
poor vehicle maintenance. Drivers of all types of vehicles may drive under the
influence of qat, considered a Schedule 1 narcotic in the U.S.
Arabia has reinforced its concrete-filled security barrier along sections of
the fully demarcated border with Yemen to stem illegal cross-border activities.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
United States is concerned about the risk to civil aviation operating in
specified areas of the Sana’a Flight Information Region (FIR) due to the
ongoing military operations, political instability, and violence from competing
armed groups involved in combat operations and other military-related activity.
The FAA has prohibited U.S. civil aviation from flying in specific areas within
the FIR. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
planning travel to Yemen should check for U.S. maritime advisories and
alerts on the MARAD website, the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings website.
in the region of the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden, including
near the island of Socotra, should operate under a heightened state of alert as
increasing tensions in the region increase the potential for direct or
collateral damage to vessels transiting the area. These threats may come from a
variety of different sources such as missiles, projectiles, or waterborne
improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and
Indian Ocean remains a security threat to maritime activities in the region.
The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) advises that elevated
regional tensions have increased the risk of maritime attacks by extremists to
vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the
Bab el Mandeb regions.
recommends vessels at anchor, operating in restricted maneuvering
environments, or at slow speeds should be especially vigilant and report
suspicious activity. U.S. flag vessels that observe suspicious activity in the
area should report such suspicious activity or any hostile or potentially
hostile action to the COMUSNAVCENT Battlewatch Captain at +973-1785-3879. Report
all suspicious activities and events to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response
Center at 1-800-424-8802, 1-202-267-2675, or TDD 1-202-267-4477. Review the
Department of State’s International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet and the MARAD advisory on vessels transiting high risk waters.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Yemen as being a CRITICAL-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. The threat posed by violent extremist groups in Yemen remains high.
Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has expanded its influence
in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict. Because of the instability and
violence in Yemen, the internationally recognized government cannot effectively
enforce counterterrorism measures and a large security vacuum persists. AQAP has benefitted
from the conflict by significantly expanding its presence in the southern and
eastern governorates. ISIS also has established a presence in Yemen,
and has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks
throughout Yemen since 2016. Methods include suicide bombings, vehicle borne IEDs
(VBIEDs), ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. The U.S.
government remains extremely concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens
(whether visiting or residing in Yemen), U.S. private-sector facilities, and
perceived U.S. and Western interests.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Yemen as being a CRITICAL-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
government interests. All areas of Yemen continue to suffer high levels of
violence due to limited government control, ongoing military operations, the
prevalence of non-state military formations and political instability. Frequent
airstrikes and shelling in many areas of Yemen have led to high levels of
August 2019, UAE-backed Security Belt Forces, many of which aligned with the
Southern Transitional Council (STC), took over the internationally
recognized government’s temporary capital of Aden and several other southern
territories, leading to an increase of the level of violence in
Aden, Lahij, Abyan, and Shabwah governorates as STC and
ROYG-aligned forces continued to contest control over southern Yemen. In
October 2019, Saudi forces replaced UAE forces in Aden and were seeking to
establish security conditions to enable the return of
the government to its temporary capital.
Houthis have frequently encouraged protests in Sana’a against the Saudi-led
coalition, and, in some cases, at UN offices and those
of other international non-government organizations. All governorates of Yemen
have witnessed violence due to conflicts between the Houthis, tribal
militias, government forces, and a range of non-state actors, including AQAP
and ISIS. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
violence occurs in all areas of Yemen. In September 2018, a
Houthi-controlled court in Sana’a charged more than 20 Baha’is with apostasy
and espionage. According to media reports, Houthi authorities modified
the University of Sana’a student and faculty identification cards to include
the Houthi flag and slogan “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews,
Victory to Islam.” Sectarian polarization stimulated by the war with the Zaydi
Houthis attracted recruits to AQAP; the estimated number of AQAP operatives
inside the country is now between 6,000 and 7,000. In January 2018, Khaled
Batarfi, a senior AQAP leader, recorded a video calling for knife and vehicle
attacks against Jews in response to the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as
the capital of Israel. According to media reports, unknown gunmen killed 27
Muslim clerics in Aden between 2016 and 2018. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice,
and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
UN data, as of September 2019, there were 3.6 million internally displaced
persons in Yemen and 1.2 million IDP returnees. Over 350,000 refugees
from Yemen had arrived in neighboring countries as of August 2019, according to
the UNHCR. The total number of refugees and asylum seekers in Yemen
was 276,134, most (91%) of whom came
from Somalia to Yemen, despite the conflict.
are hazardous during rainy seasons due to a lack of adequate drainage. Flash
floods pose a significant safety concern and may occur with little or no
warning, even in Sana’a. There are sandstorms and dust storms in summer.
has limited volcanic activity; Jebel at Tair (Jabal al-Tair, Jebel Teir, Jabal
al-Tayr, Jazirat at-Tair) (244 m), which forms an island in the Red Sea,
erupted in 2007 after awakening from dormancy; other historically active
volcanoes include Harra of Arhab, Harras of Dhamar, Harra es-Sawad, and Jebel
Zubair, although many of these have not erupted in over a century
Power outages and spikes are common. Several regions possess
little to no Internet coverage and sporadic electricity availability. Roadways
and airports have suffered damage from the ongoing conflict.
Many international telecommunication and cellular providers do not
have coverage in Yemen. Telecommunications services are vital but disrupted. Rebels
often deliberately target mobile towers, and maintenance is dangerous to staff.
Aid organization rely on satellite and radio communications. There is a scarcity
of telecommunications equipment in rural areas. Review OSAC’s
Basics, Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?.
a member of the major treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property
Organization, having acceded to the Berne Convention on Copyright
in 2008, to the Paris Convention for the Protection
of Industrial Property in 2007 and the WIPO convention in 1979. However, due
to the current conflict and limited government control over state institutions,
authorities do not enforce intellectual property rights (IPR) effectively. The Ministry
of Industry and Trading’s opening of a second IP office in Aden in
2018 independent of the Houthi-controlled IP office in Sana’a
raised rights holder concerns that they would have to file duplicate
trademark applications with both registries, and that third parties could use the
opportunity to register duplicate trademarks in bad faith.
has crippled Yemen’s economy and led to frequent volatility in exchange rate
and prices. Due to the limited penetration of the formal banking
sector, many exchange transactions proceed through unregulated, private
money exchange or black-market channels. International Monetary
Fund reports highlight gaps in the Central Bank of
Yemen’s (CBY) supervisory capacity over the entire financial system,
including compliance with anti-money laundering and combating the
financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) standards. Houthi-controlled
authorities in Sana’a have arbitrarily shut down exchange
businesses and seized new Yemeni Rial (YER) banknotes printed by the
CBY in Aden, while the inferior quality of some CBY-printed notes has
enabled widespread counterfeiting. Reports from both Sana’a and Aden indicate
that a range of criminal groups engage in the distribution of counterfeit
YER notes and counterfeit foreign currency.
number of Yemeni individuals and entities are currently sanctioned under the
U.S. Department of Treasury’s Yemen Sanctions Program
and other authorities. Check the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets
Control (OFAC) Specially
Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list prior to undertaking
business with any Yemeni individuals or entities.
rights face routine and arbitrary infringement throughout the country. Houthi security actors search homes and private offices,
monitor telephone calls, read personal mail and email, and otherwise intrude
into personal matters without legally issued warrants or judicial supervision.
The law requires that the attorney general personally
authorize telephone call monitoring and reading of personal mail and email, but
there is no indication the law is followed in practice. There have
been notable cases of Houthi intrusion into cyberspace. The Houthi-controlled
Public Telecommunications Corporation systematically blocks user access to
websites and internet domains it deems dangerous to the rebel actors’ political
Women face deeply entrenched
discrimination in both law and practice in all aspects of their lives.
Mechanisms to enforce equal protection are weak, and the government does not
implement them effectively. Women in custody disputes in Yemen will not enjoy
the same rights that they do in the United States, as Yemeni law often does not
work in favor of the mother. Parents should also note that Yemen might not
enforce U.S. custody orders. U.S. citizen women married to Yemeni men should be
aware that their children may not be able to depart Yemen. In many instances,
women must obtain permission from their husbands to obtain an exit visa. They
also may not be able to take their children out of Yemen without the permission
of the father, regardless of who has legal custody. Authorities may not recognize
U.S. divorce decrees, especially if the marriage took place in
Yemen. Some U.S. citizen women who have married in Yemen and divorced
in the United States have been prevented from departing Yemen by their
The law states that authorities
should execute a man if convicted of killing a woman. The penal code, however,
allows leniency for persons guilty of committing an “honor” killing or
violently assaulting or killing a woman for perceived “immodest” or “defiant”
behavior. The law does not address other types of gender-based abuse, such as
forced isolation, imprisonment, and early and forced marriage. Victims rarely
report domestic abuse to police, and criminal proceedings in cases of domestic
abuse are rare. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.
The penal code criminalizes
consensual same-sex sexual conduct, with the death penalty as a sanction under
the country’s interpretation of Islamic law. However, there have been no known
executions of LGBTI+ persons in more than a decade. The government does not
consider violence or discrimination against LGBTI+ persons “relevant” for
official reporting. Due to the illegality of and possible severe punishment for
consensual same-sex sexual conduct, few LGBTI+ persons are open about their
sexual orientation or gender identity. Individuals known or suspected of being
LGBTI+ face discrimination. There are no LGBTI+ organizations. The government
blocks access to internet sites containing LGBTI-related content. Review the
State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
Several laws mandate the rights
and care of persons with disabilities, but the government does not effectively
enforce them. The law permits persons with disabilities to exercise the same
rights as persons without disabilities, but this does not happen in practice.
Social stigma and official indifference are obstacles to implementation. Although
the law mandates that new buildings have access for persons with disabilities,
compliance is poor. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.
Driving under the influence of
alcohol or drugs can lead to immediate arrest and detention. Penalties for
possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Yemen are severe, and
convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The use of
the mild stimulant "qat” or “khat" is legal and common in Yemen, but
it is illegal in many other countries, including the United States. Do not
attempt to bring qat back to the United States; the penalties for trafficking
qat include heavy fines and possible imprisonment.
the beginning of the conflict in 2015, rebel groups in Sana’a have systematically and unlawfully
detained U.S. citizens. Reports indicate that criminals target U.S. citizens by
virtue of their citizenship, regardless of the amount of time they have spent
in Yemen, their established connections with rebel groups, or their connections
with local businesses or humanitarian organizations aimed at providing relief
to those in need. During their detentions, which in some cases have lasted well
over a year, U.S. citizens have not been able to contact their families or receive
U.S. consular visits or those from international humanitarian organizations. U.S.
government directly assistance to U.S. citizens in detention is severely
limited, since there is no U.S. diplomatic presence in Yemen following the Houthi
rebel takeover of Sana’a.
addition to the threat of detention by rebel groups, there continue to be other
risks due to the ongoing conflict and heightened terrorist activity, including
kidnappings for ransom. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Other Security Considerations
potential hazards to travelers include land mines and unexploded ordnance from
the 1994 civil war and other conflicts. This is of particular concern in the
vicinity of Hudaydah, the six southern provinces and in the northern highlands.
Most minefields have been identified and cordoned off, but there are still
undetected and unidentified minefields in Yemen.
government is unable to take any substantive steps to protect journalists from
violence and harassment. Pro-government popular resistance forces, Houthis, and
tribal militias are responsible for a range of abuses against media outlets. Amnesty
International reports the Houthis have detained at least ten journalists since
2015 on false charges, subjecting them to torture and other forms of abuse. The
UN Group of Experts reported 40 cases of women human rights defenders,
journalists, and activists facing “gender-based persecution” in 2019, which
included threats from all sides of the conflict.
of military installations, including airports, equipment, or troops is illegal.
In the past, such photography has led to the arrest of U.S. citizens. Military
sites are not always obvious. If in doubt, ask specific permission from authorities.
Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
the State Department’s webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out
of other countries.
emergency line in Yemen is 199; the
service is unreliable, and the operators do not speak English. Police stations
are clearly identified with signs. Police officers on foot and in locations
throughout Sana’a are also easy to find; however, it is very rare to find
a police officer who can speak English.
and security units currently fall under the Interior Ministry or the
Houthis’ Revolutionary Committee. The police and
security agencies most people will encounter include the Special
Security Forces (SSF) and other security groups administrated by the
Houthis’ Revolutionary Committee, which principally patrol and
staff checkpoints; the Emergency Police (Najda); and the General
Police, which work in police stations and usually respond to reports
of general criminal activities. However, police may not provide
security support unless the victim pays them.
and military checkpoints –official and unofficial - are common and
may appear with little or no advance notice. Those staffing checking
points generally do not wear police uniforms, which makes it difficult to
recognize and differentiate police checkpoints from military
or local tribal checkpoints. Sana’a and other Houthi-controlled cities
are not safe for foreigners. Those manning checkpoints will
likely stop foreigners, interrogate and possibly arrest them,
and take them to the nearest police station. Yemenis who also possess
any other foreign citizenship must carry their National Yemeni IDs to
avoid targeting at checkpoints.
emergency line in Yemen is 199; the
service is unreliable, and the operators do not speak English. Due to the lack
of reliable street addresses, emergency callers should provide directions based
on prominent landmarks and prepare to meet the ambulance upon arrival. Prepare directions
and keep them by the phone. If you can safely transport the patient to the hospital
by private vehicle, you may avoid a potentially long wait for an ambulance. It
is important to know the quickest and shortest routes to the main emergency
facilities throughout the city. Due to the ongoing civil unrest, medical
facilities in Sana’a, Aden, and elsewhere in the country may not be readily
are various medical clinics and hospitals throughout Sanaa, but not all
facilities offer full medical services, and emergency care is limited. Medical
care outside Sana’a is even more limited.
male relative’s consent is often required before a woman can be admitted to a
hospital, creating significant problems in a humanitarian context in which the
men of the household are absent or dead.
non-life-threatening emergencies or routine consultations, several private
medical centers and medical providers are available. Identify and select a
primary care physician and a pediatrician if required. Foreigners residing or
traveling in Sana’a frequented the following medical service
providers in the past, though the numbers of foreigners in Sana’a has reduced
significantly since the conflict began:
- University of Science
and Technology Hospital, Across from the rear
gate of Sana’a University, 60th Street, +967 1 500 000
- Modern German Hospital,
Taiz Street before Al-steen crossing; in front of Al-Tadhamon Islamic
Bank, +967 1 600 000
- Saudi German Hospital, 60th
Street, before the crossing of AlJammana, +967 1 313 333
- Azal Hospital, 60th Street,
next to Mathbah Bridge, +967 1 200 000
- Dr. Abdulkadir Al-Mutawakil
Hospital, Baghdad Street, next to Future University, +967 1 208
- Modern European Hospital,
60th Street, in front of Presidential Palace, +967 1
- Yemen German Hospital,
Al-Mesbahi Cross, in front of Lulat Haddah Hotel, Hadda Street, +967 1 418
- Lebanon Heart Hospital,
14 October Square, Haddah, +967 1 425 386
General Hospital, Khawlan Street, In front of Bab AlSalam, +967 1 246 966 to 8 /
246 971 to 7 / 246 983
The U.S. Department of State
strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
cholera transmission is widespread in Yemen. Cholera is rare in travelers but
can be severe. Certain factors may increase the risk of getting cholera or
having severe disease (more information). Avoiding unsafe food and water and
washing your hands can also help prevent cholera.
mosquito bites to prevent malaria. Consider taking prescription medicine before,
during, and after travel to prevent malaria, depending on travel plans such as
where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of
time outdoors or sleeping outside. All areas below 2,000 m (6,562 ft) in
altitude have risk of malaria, though there is none in Sana’a. See more
detailed information from the CDC about malaria
can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in Yemen
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Yemen.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for
Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council Information
is no Country Council in Sana’a. Interested private-sector security
managers should contact OSAC’s Middle East
& North Africa team for more information.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
Embassy Sanaa suspended operations in 2015 due to the ongoing civil conflict. The
Yemen Affairs Unit (YAU), provisionally resident at U.S. Embassy Riyadh,
continues U.S. diplomatic work on Yemen.
Collector Road M, Riyadh
Diplomatic Quarter. P.O. Box 94309, Riyadh 11693 KSA.
Hours of Operation: 0800-1700,
Embassy Operator: +966 (11)
Department Emergency Line: +1-202-501-4444
Before you travel, consider the