Officers and Executive Committee


H.E. Dr Yassin Saeed Noman, Yemeni Ambassador to the Court of St James

Dr Yassin Noman joined the National Liberation Front (NLF), which later became the Yemeni Socialist Party when he was 17 years old. In 1986 he became the Prime Minister of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). He remained in this post utiil the unification of Yemen in 1990. Dr Noman had previously been Minister of Fisheries and Deputy Prime Minister of the PDRY. After unification in 1990, Dr Noman became the interim Speaker of Parliament, until the general election of 1993. He became the General Secretary of the Yemeni Socialist Party in 2005, a post which he held until 2014.

H.E. Mr Simon Shercliff, H.M. Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen

Mr Simon Shercliff took up his appointment during February 2017. Whilst operations at the British Embassy in Sana’a remain suspended, Mr Shercliff will be based outside Yemen in Saudi Arabia.

After graduating from Cambridge University in 1995, Simon worked for 2 years as a volunteer Chemistry teacher in a Government School in Tanzania. He then returned to the UK to join the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1998. His first posting was as a political officer in the British Embassy, Tehran, for 3 years from 2000. On leaving Iran in 2003, he spent a short period in Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) London before deploying to Baghdad as the Private Secretary to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Iraq. He was awarded the OBE for his work. He returned to London in 2004 to the FCO Press Office, as a spokesman for Iran and Iraq issues. After a year, he became the Chief Press Officer, then the Foreign Secretary’s Press Secretary. He arrived in Washington to work on counter proliferation issues in 2006. He then deployed to the British Embassy, Kabul, between November 2007 and February 2008. He then returned to Washington, working on Afghanistan, until 2010. He returned to the FCO in early 2011 as the Deputy Head of the South Asia Department. In 2012 he was promoted to be the Head of the FCO’s Counter Terrorism Department. From February 2014 until December 2016 he was the Deputy High Commissioner in Abuja. Simon is married to Emma, and has 2 young children. His interests are sport and the great outdoors.


Chairman: Dr Robert Wilson OBE

Robert’s first stay in Yemen began in 1972 when, as a student of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Cambridge, he took a year out from his university studies to teach English and learn spoken Arabic in the small mountain town of Hajjah. After finishing his BA, he started work on a PhD on the same area of north-west Yemen, and shortly thereafter secured a five-year contract position as assistant lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies. Between terms he made a number of extended visits to Yemen, travelling widely in the western mountains and central highlands on foot, by donkey, or on a motorbike. At the end of his teaching contract, he was offered a position in the Foreign Office’s Research Department, to work on Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.  By the time he actually started his work there, things had moved on, and for much of his 32-year career with the FCO he was occupied mainly with Libya and Iraq (including postings in both countries). Other postings took him and his family to the UAE and Bahrain. Finally, in 2012, he was offered a posting to the British Embassy in Sanaa where he spent two years, until his retirement from the FCO in 2014. The fruits of his thesis and subsequent research were published in his Gazetteer of Historical North-West Yemen (Georg Olms, 1989).


Vice-Chairman: Julian Lush




Secretary: Audrey Allfree

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, and first visited Aden in 1963, and again in 1964. I married Philip Allfree in 1965 and spent time flying over Hadhramaut en route to al-Mukalla. I became interested in Yemen as a result of my husband’s role as a Political Officer in the East Aden Protectorate, culminating in his book Hawks of the Hadhramaut (Robert Hale, 2013). We returned to the UK after one year in Nakuru, Kenya. Philip joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 1969 with various Middle East postings to Amman and Beirut. We were then posted to the British Embassy in Sana’a in 1978-79.  During that time we travelled widely in the Yemen Arab Republic. As a result of my legal secretarial training I worked in Sana’a for the late Dr Hussein al-Hubeishi, the then President’s Legal Adviser. I spent seventeen years with a large Westminster law firm, Winckworth Sherwood, as legal secretary. I have spent the last five years doing occasional voluntary work with the Personal Support Unit, at Wandsworth County Court. As a result of my travels in the Middle East, and Yemen in particular, I have an abiding interest in Yemen and its people.


Treasurer: John Huggins


Ordinary Members

Dr Adel Aulaqi

Adel Aulaqi MB, ChB. FRCSEd. DTM&H, MFPM, MA (History) is a practising physician who qualified in Edinburgh and specialises in tropical diseases and general surgery. He served as Director of Medical Services of the Aden Refinery medical division from 1978 to late 1982 and worked closely with the Ministry of Health of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). He subsequently spent twelve years in pharmaceutical medicine, initially as medical adviser (Middle East and Africa) after which he took charge of worldwide Phase IV clinical trials programme at the Wellcome Foundation Research Laboratories (UK) until 1995. In 2008 he gained an MA in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where his dissertation was on the development of the health services in South Arabia under British rule (1937–1967). He holds a deep interest in Yemen’s health care system(s), and visits family and friends in Yemen regularly.

James Firebrace

James graduated from Cambridge University with an MA in Social and Political Science, and later gained an MSc with distinction at the London Business School.  His early career focused on the development challenges of the poorest countries of the Middle East and Sahelian Africa. He was Director of the CIIR (now Progressio) Programme in Yemen and Somalia from 1976 to 1980, and throughout the 1980s was War on Want Programme Director for the Middle East and the Sahel. A five year spell as Director General of Consumers International in the early 1990s was followed by a period as Senior Consultant at Gemini Consulting.  This led to extensive consulting and advisory work initially in the energy sector addressing its sustainability challenges, not least climate change. James set up James Firebrace Associates Ltd (JFA) in 1998, with a focus on the analysis and management of the interconnected strategic issues of water, economic revitalisation, sustainable livelihoods and conflict prevention. This has taken him back to Yemen where since 2005 JFA has been active in a number of capacities. These have included Senior Adviser on Social and Environmental Issues to YLNG during the construction and compensation phase, and with the UN designing a coastal livelihoods programme involving pilots on the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Most recently James has coordinated the UK-funded research programme assessing and proposing solutions for the future of the city of Taiz, facing extreme water scarcity, severe constraints on industrial investment and job creation, and conflict with its hinterland. This latter work raises issues fundamental to the future wellbeing of Yemen, and is summarised in Rebuilding Yemen: Political, Economic and Social Challenges (Gerlach, 2015).

Martin Jerrett

Martin Jerrett was United Nations senior political affairs officer for two years, advising both Jamal Benomar and later, his successor, Ismail Ould Chaikh Ahmed, on southern Yemen. He has had an interest in Yemen since 2008, when he was involved in a tribal mapping project. Later he worked for the Danish Demining Group, focused on the conflict areas of Abyan and Lahij. Martin worked for five years as an adviser with the Ministry of Defence, based initially in Baghdad from 2003 before moving to CentCom in Qatar. He learned his Arabic at Birzeit University in Palestine where he visits regularly to indulge his interests in archaeology and hill walking.

Taher Ali Qassim MBE

Taher was born and grew up in Yemen and studied in Sweden and the UK. He is currently a full time Public Health Neighbourhood Manager with Liverpool Primary Care Trust and has been involved in community development locally, regionally and internationally over the last 25 years. Part of this work was in different countries in the Middle East and Africa. Taher was one of the founders of the Liverpool Arabic Centre and has been involved as a trustee since 1995. He is also the Chair of the Liverpool Black and other Racial Minorities (BRM) Network, Liverpool BRM Education sub-group, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival (LAAF) and a Board member of the Bluecoat Arts Centre.

Dirhem Abdo Saeed

Mr. Dirhem Abdo Saeed has over 30 years’ commercial experience. He is currently the Vice Chairman of Hayel Saeed Anam Group, Managing Director of Longulf Trading (UK) Ltd, the Chairman of Cepac Ltd, and a Board member of the Tadhamon International Islamic Bank. He was previously General Manager of the Yemen Company for Industry & Commerce, and General Manager of the National Food & Dairy Industry. Mr. Dirhem Saeed holds an MBA from Oklahoma City University, USA and a Finance & Accounting degree from Cairo University, Egypt.

James Spencer


Honorary Vice-Presidents

Dr Abdulla Abdul Wali Nasher

Dr Nasher has an English educational background but his strong passion and loyalty to his home country lead him to return to Yemen in 1984. Following his return, he took up successive surgical and teaching appointments in Yemen. In 1994 he became professor and Chief of the Surgical Department in the Faculty of Medicine, Sana'a University. Three years later he was appointed Minister of Public Health, and served from 1997 to 2001. In 1998, he supervised the designing of the Health Sector Reform Strategy for Yemen. In 2000 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Medicine by the University of Southampton for his reform strategy and his outstanding work in the Ministry of Health. In 2001–2003 he became a member of Yemen Shura Council as well as Chairman of the International Bank of Yemen. Ambassador Nasher is also an Honorary Vice-President of the British–Yemeni Society and was Chairman of the Yemeni–British Friendship Association from 1992 until 2003. Over the years Dr Nasher has published numerous scientific research papers, primarily in British medical journals. In 2000, he published a book entitled, Health Care in Least Developed Countries: The Experience of Yemen. From November 2003 to November 2008 Dr Nasher served as Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to Canada. In 2009, Dr Nasher retired and moved with his family to live in Canada.

Dirhem Abdo Saeed

Journal Editor: Helen Lackner

Helen Lackner has been involved with Yemen since 1973. She lived and worked in rural development in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen from 1977 to 1982 and in the Yemen Arab Republic during the 1980s. Since unification she has worked throughout the country, including being based for two years in the Hadramaut. Her first book was A House Built on Sand: A Political Economy of Saudi Arabia (Ithaca Press, 1978). She is the author of PDRY: Outpost of Socialist Development in Arabia (Ithaca Press, 1985), she co-edited Yemen into the Twenty-First Century: Continuity and Change (Ithaca Press, 2007), and edited the BYS book Why Yemen Matters: A Society in Transition (Saqi, 2014). Among others, she has recently contributed chapters on Yemen to books about civil resistance during the 2011 uprisings and the impact of climate change on security. She has written "The Yemeni Transition from Saleh's Autocratic Rule: Could it have Succeded? (IDEA, 2015) and is currently working on a book designed to improve understanding of the current crisis. She is particularly interested in water management and the relationship between political change and social and economic development. After about 30 years as a consultant in social aspects of development, with a particular focus on rural development working in over 30 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Helen Lackner is refocusing her work towards a deeper involvement as an analyst and author, though she maintains some direct involvement in development issues.  Her current priority is to pass on the knowledge gained from her long experience to a new generation. She is based in Oxford.


Honorary Members

Dr Noel Brehony CMG

Dr Brehony was Chairman of the British Yemeni Society from 2010 to 2015 and author of a book on the PDRY entitled Yemen Divided: The Story of a Failed State in South Arabia (I. B. Tauris 2011 & 2013), having followed events in the PDRY throughout its existence. He is a former diplomat and businessman and is currently Chairman of both Menas Associates and the Council for British Research in the Levant. He was a Research Associate at the London Middle East Institute from 2008 to 2011 and is a member of its Advisory Council. He is past President of British Society for Middle East Studies and past chairman of the Middle East Association. He co-edited British-Egyptian Relations from Suez to the Present Day (Saqi & LMEI, 2007) and Rebuilding Yemen: Political, Economic and Social Challenges (Gerlach, 2015). He is currently working on an edited volume under the title: Migration from Yemen: The Politics and Identity of the Hadhrami Diaspora (I. B. Tauris, 2017). 

Dr Abdulaziz Ali al-Qu'aiti