Ex-child soldier presents damning testimony of Houthi recruitment in Yemen

Wahab, Arab News, June 22, 2018

who try to flee are recaptured and forced to continue fighting. The study shows
80 percent of child soldiers in Yemen begin fighting to earn much-needed money
A Yemeni
boy poses with a Kalashnikov assault rifle during a gathering of
newly-recruited Houthi fighters in the capital Sanaa, to mobilize more fighters
to battlefronts in the war against pro-government forces in several Yemeni
cities. (File photo: AFP)

Children recruited as fighters by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen are
beaten into submission and face psychological abuse, as well as the risk of death,
injury and disability, a former child soldier said on Friday.

Those who
try to flee are recaptured and forced to continue fighting, he told the Yemeni
Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV).

child’s testimony is part of a documentary about the recruitment of children in
Yemen, which was broadcast during the 38th session of the UN Human Rights
Council in Geneva, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

expert Lisa Al-Badawi highlighted efforts to rehabilitate former child soldiers
and children affected by the war in Yemen.

She said
children make up a third of fighters in the Houthi militias, according to a
field study by the Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation.

The study
showed that 80 percent of child soldiers in Yemen begin fighting to earn
much-needed money amid deteriorating economic conditions, while just 10 percent
join Houthi ranks for “ideological reasons.”

revealed numerous human rights violations faced by the recruits, including the
risk of death and injury, deprivation of education, and exposure to sexual and
psychological abuse.

She also
discussed the methods used to treat and rehabilitate these children,
emphasizing the importance of promoting awareness among parents.

presented statistics on the areas covered by the rehabilitation process, which
is carried out with support from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief
Center (KSRelief).

Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations
scholar, said he is not surprised by the Houthis’ large-scale recruitment of

devious design, they push children onto the frontlines so that when the
children become victims, the Houthis can cry foul and blame the legitimate
Yemeni government for killing children,” he told Arab News.

are terrorist militias, and like all terrorists, they have no qualms about
playing with the lives of children.”
It is easy for the militias to brainwash children, Al-Shehri said. “Grown
people are difficult to convince, but children become easy prey,” he added.

“In most
cases, the Houthis don’t even tell children that they’re going to the
frontlines. They lure them by saying they’ll be helping their men.”

Now that
the Houthis have been cornered in Hodeidah, they will use children and the
civilian population as human shields, Al-Shehri said, asking: “What can we
expect from such terrorists?”

the Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of
Hodeidah port to the UN, according to sources quoted by Reuters. The port is a
principal entry point for relief supplies for Yemen.

week, UN envoy Martin Griffiths has been in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni
capital Sanaa and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to try to negotiate a solution.

source, quoted by Reuters, said the Houthis indicated that they would accept
overall UN management and inspections of the port.

A Western
diplomat said the UN would oversee income from the port and make sure it gets
to Yemen’s central bank. The understanding is that Yemeni state employees will
work alongside the UN.

on Thursday said he was “encouraged by the constructive engagement” of the
Houthis, and will be holding meetings with Yemen’s internationally backed
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

earlier at the UN, Saudi Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi reiterated the
Saudi-led coalition’s demand that the Houthis quit the city of Hodeidah

“What we
are offering is for the Houthis to hand over their weapons to the government of
Yemen and to leave, to leave peacefully, and to provide information about the
locations of mines and improvised explosive devices,” he said.