US analysis: Children recruited today are the seeds of future wars in Yemen

English - Wednesday 13 September 2023 الساعة 10:12 am
Al-Mukalla, NewsYemen, exclusive:

An American analysis published by the Gulf Arab States Institute in Washington showed that children recruited in Yemen would not simply disappear regardless of how or when the country's current conflict ended years ago. 

The analysis indicated that children carrying weapons is not a new phenomenon; For centuries, young boys, ages 12 to 15, have taken up arms to protect their families or defend tribal lands; But what is happening in Yemen now is completely different and more disturbing.

He explained that children are targeted, recruited, trained, and eventually turned into soldiers, as this process is institutionalized while the child soldiers it produces are glorified.

The analysis, prepared by researcher Gregory D. Johnson, a former member of the United Nations Group of Experts on Yemen, who currently serves as associate director of the Future Conflict Institute at the US Air Force Academy, explained that regardless of how or when the current conflict ends, child soldiers will not simply disappear, and that this is a problem. It will affect Yemen and its neighbors for decades to come, as these child soldiers are the seeds of Yemen’s future wars.

Most reports - including the report of the UN Secretary-General on “Children and Armed Conflict”, reports of the UN Security Council Group of Experts on Yemen, and reports of the now-defunct UN Panel of Leading International and Regional Experts - indicate that the Houthis are responsible for More than two-thirds of child soldiers are in Yemen. This is partly due to recent history, and partly the Houthis may argue that this is driven by military necessity, but it is all deliberate.

In the 1980s, the group, which became known as the Houthis, established summer camps in the northern highlands of Saada. Ostensibly, the purpose of these camps was to educate the next generation about the basics of Zaidiism, the dominant Shiite sect in northern Yemen. After all, the Zaidi imams ruled North Yemen for most of the last millennium until they were overthrown in 1962. But the Zaidi faith always had a military component, and the Zaidis who formed these first summer camps, including members of the Houthi family itself, established Military training too.

An analysis by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington showed that the graduates of those summer camps formed the nucleus of the Houthi movement in the period from 2004 to 2010, when the group fought the government of then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, pointing out that throughout the current conflict that began in 2014, the Houthis pushed children Constantly to the front lines, particularly in and around Hodeidah in 2018 and 2019 and in Marib in 2020 and 2021, as a way to compensate for troop shortages. The Houthis also recruited and used young girls to plant landmines and as cooks and spies.

The researcher pointed out that the Houthis are using a push and pull approach to recruit children, and in this process they are reshaping Yemeni society, explaining that the Houthis are exploiting poverty, which is the biggest motivation for recruiting children in Yemen, in addition to the bad economy in the country. The Houthis also took advantage of the worsening suffering of many families and food insecurity, by promising to provide food baskets to families who contribute soldiers, including children, pointing out that the Houthis used humanitarian aid as a weapon.

According to the American analysis, educational opportunities in Yemen have evaporated and teachers, many of whom do not receive their salaries for several months, have been transferred to join militia groups. In other cases, bombed schools were not rebuilt, making matters worse.

Analysis indicated that, according to interviews with people on the ground, the Houthis began imposing what amounts to a tax on children enrolled in government schools. The added amount is about 1,000 Yemeni riyals per month, and this discouraged some families from sending their children to school, explaining that Houthi recruits whisper in the ears of parents instead of paying school fees, which families can receive only if their children join the fight.

In April 2022, coinciding with the national truce, the Houthis signed an agreement with the United Nations that obligated the group to stop recruiting children. But despite this agreement, the UN Group of Experts on Yemen found that the Houthis “continue to indoctrinate, recruit and, in some cases, military training children in summer camps.” In fact, the Houthis have increased their efforts to recruit and train children.

According to researcher Dr. Johnson, Houthi textbooks now contain sections on child “martyrs” who fought and died in the current war. The streets of Sanaa and other cities in the north often have posters of child soldiers plastered on shop walls. Al-Zamil, popular chanted poetry often played on Houthi-controlled radio, glorifies the children who “sacrificed” themselves to defend Yemen.

An analysis by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington confirmed that boys and girls in Yemen today have been manipulated and pushed to take up arms. And these are the same young men and women who will fight Yemen's upcoming wars.