Field Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh (Arabic: علي عبدالله صالح; born 21 March 1942) is the first President of the Republic of Yemen. Saleh previously served as President of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) from 1978 until 1990, at which time he assumed the office of chairman of the Presidential Council of the Republic of Yemen (unified Yemen). He is the longest-serving president of Yemen, ruling since 1978.
Saleh was born in the town of al-Ahmar, in the Al-Ahmar family — the ruling family of the Hashid tribal confederacy. Saleh is a Zaydi Shia Muslim. He is a "non-Hashimi" Zaydi (not a direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad's grandfather), and would not have been eligible to rule under the Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen that ruled the country until 1962.
Saleh obtained less than an elementary school education. He joined the North Yemeni armed forces in 1958 and the North Yemen Military Academy in 1960, and became a corporal. Three years later, he was commissioned from the ranks as a second lieutenant. In 1977, the President of North Yemen, Ahmed bin Hussein al-Ghashmi, appointed him as military governor of Ta'izz.