Ali Abdullah Saleh Biography

(1st President of Yemen)

Birthday: March 21, 1947 (Aries)

Born In: Sana'a, Yemen

Ali Abdullah Saleh was the first President of the Republic of Yemen. Born into the Sanhan clan, a lesser branch of the Hashid tribal group, he had very little formal education. At the age of sixteen, he joined the North Yemen Army as part of Hashid tribal levy, eventually receiving officers’ training and passing out as a second lieutenant. Eventually, he earned the attention of his seniors and was appointed the military governor of Ta'izz at the age of thirty-five and the President of Yemen Arab Republic at thirty-six. He developed deep ties with western powers and became an ally in their fight against terror, concurrently giving terrorism covert support and using it to his advantage. The unification of North and South Yemen was the high point of his career. He ruled over Yemen for more than three decades, eventually being forced to step down at the age of seventy.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Ali Abdullah Saleh al-Ahmar

Died At Age: 70


Spouse/Ex-: Asma Saleh

father: Abdallah Saleh Afaash

children: Ahmed Saleh, Khaled Ali Abdullah Saleh, Madeen Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ridan Ali Abdullah Saleh, Sakhr Ali Abdullah Saleh, Salah Ali Abdullah Saleh

Born Country: Yemen

Presidents Political Leaders

Died on: December 4, 2017

place of death: Sana'a, Yemen

Cause of Death: Assassination

Childhood & Early Years
Ali Abdullah Saleh was born on March 21, 1947, in the agricultural village of Beit al-Ahmar, located near the national capital, Sana’a. His father’s name was Abdallah Saleh Afaash while his mother’s name remains unknown. When he was still very young, his father divorced his mother and died.
Raised by his stepfather, Muhammad Saleh, who was also his father’s brother, he had at least seven brothers or half-brothers, one of whom was Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar. As a child, he attended a Qurʾānic school at Ma’alama, where he received his elementary education.
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Military Career
In 1958, Ali Abdullah Saleh joined the Hashid tribal levy, which was attached to the army of the Zaydi imams, serving in it as an ordinary infantry soldier for two years. Eventually in 1960, he joined the North Yemen Military Academy, where he was trained to become an officer.
In 1962, while still studying at the Military Academy, he joined the military coup which led to the removal of King Muhammad al-Badr and formation of Yemen Arab Republic. At the end of it, he once again returned to the academy to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1963.
Possibly in 1964, he joined the Armoured Corps as a second lieutenant and was promoted to the rank of major in 1969. Two years later, he was sent to Iraq for further training, at the end of which he was made a lieutenant colonel.
In 1974, he joined another coup that made Ibrāhīm al-Ḥamdī the president. In the following year, he was made a full colonel and was given command of a mechanized brigade.
In 1977, he was appointed as the military governor of Ta'izz, a post that earned him great prestige both at home and abroad. During this period, he not only developed a strong relationship with the influential tribal sheikhs, but also represented his country in several international forums.
President of North Yemen
On 17 July 1978, after President Abdul Karim Abdullah al-Arashi was assassinated under mysterious circumstance, Ali Abdullah Saleh was unanimously elected as President of the Yemen Arab Republic by the Parliament. Concurrently, he also held the position of chief of staff and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
In October 1979, a group of Nasserite officers led by Mohamed Fala tried unsuccessfully to stage a coup against him. It made Saleh apprehensive and he began to induct his close relatives into the security institutions.
In 1980, he was promoted to the post of major general and was reelected president in 1983. Issuing passports to the Jewish citizens, which was earlier denied to them, was another major event of this decade.
Unification of Yemen
On May 22, 1990, the North and the South Yemen agreed to unite to form the Republic of Yemen. Ali Abdullah Saleh was to become the president while Ali Salem al-Baid of South Yemen would be the vice president. A 30-month transitional period for completing the process was set up.
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In April 1993, Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) won the first election held after unification. Nonetheless, mistrust continued to haunt the people of both sides, resulting in a full-scale civil war between the forces of north and south in mid-1994, which Saleh was able to quell successfully.
In the 1997 election, GPC’s position was further consolidated. Later in the same year, with the approval of the Parliament, where GPC had maximum representatives, he was prompted to the rank of field marshal.
In 1999, he became the first Yemeni President to be directly elected by the people, winning 96.2% of the votes cast. However, most of the opposition parties had boycotted the election with only Najib Qahtan al-Shaabi standing against him.
In February 2001, the Parliament passed a law extending presidential terms to seven years and parliamentary terms to six years. The amendment also created a 111-member council of advisors, who would be appointed by the president and would have legislative powers.
Throughout the 2000s, Ali Abdullah Saleh continued to consolidate his position, being reelected in 2006 as the President of Yemen for seven more years with 77.2% of the votes. However, from early 2011, he began to face challenges, with the opposition demanding that he step down from his post. Very soon, protests erupted everywhere.
In March 2011, as Yemeni forces fired on unarmed protesters, many civil and military officers as well as important tribal chiefs declared support for the opposition. Many of his MPs also resigned from their posts.
In May 2011, he accepted a transition plan sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). However, he backed out at the last moment, not only causing GCC to withdraw from mediation, but also resulting in an intense fight between the pro-government and pro-opposition soldiers.
On June 3, 2011, he was severely injured when a bomb exploded inside the palace mosque while he was praying. He left for Saudi Arabia the very next day, formally ceding power in exchange for full immunity from prosecution for any crime he might have committed on February 27, 2012.
After ceding power, he returned to Yemen, where he continued to live freely, still having a considerable support network. In 1914, he aligned with a rebellion group called the Houthi, trying unsuccessfully to play a key role in the country’s politics.
Major Works
Unification of the North and South Yemen, which led to the formation of the Republic of Yemen, is probably the highest point of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s political career.
Family & Personal Life
Possibly in the early 1970s, Ali Abdullah Saleh married Asama Saleh. Their eldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, was born in July 1972. He probably had six other children, five of whom were Madeen Ali Abdullah, Ridan Ali Abdullah, Salah Ali Abdullah, Sakhr Ali Abdullah and Khaled Ali Abdullah.
Despite aligning with Houthi, he made a U-turn in late 2017, expressing willingness to talk to the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia. It angered the rebel group, who attacked his house on December 4, 2017. As he was trying to flee, his vehicle was disabled by a rocket-propelled grenade near Ma’rib and he was subsequently shot in the head. He was buried in Sana’a on 9th December 2017.

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