Despite the Military Calm in Yemen, Child Recruitment Remains a Concerning Issue

Sheba Intelligence | 2023-10-07 11:08 AM UTC
Despite the Military Calm in Yemen, Child Recruitment Remains a Concerning Issue



Child recruitment has flourished throughout the war in Yemen, and thousands of child soldiers have joined the frontlines in several Yemeni provinces. All parties to the conflict have recruited children, with the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group as the number-one recruiter of child soldiers.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday the Houthis have recruited thousands of children as soldiers and sent them into battle. One boy was recruited at age 13 and was subsequently shot in the chest while fighting the Yemeni army, according to HRW.  

In its Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Yemen, HRW urged an end to recruiting children in the armed forces, including those serving non-military functions. It also demanded punishing officers who allow children under 15 to join military units.

At the end of last year, UNICEF reported that the UN has verified that 3,995 children have been recruited since 2015. The report admitted that numbers are likely much higher as many child recruitment cases go unreported.

Yemen slid into conflict and chaos in 2014 when the Houthis seized and forced the internationally recognized government to flee the country. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to restore the government to power, waging an aerial military campaign and arming anti-Houthi forces. As the conflict intensified over the past years, the war rivals resorted to conscripting children to achieve their military goals.

Ali, a 55-year-old farmer, told Sheba Intelligence his son was recruited by the Houthi group three years ago and has not returned. "I do not know about the fate of my son. Was killed? If so, where is his body? Was he taken captive? The Houthi authorities have not given me answers."

Ali said he was unwilling to send his son to the frontline, but the Houthi influential individuals convinced him and tempted him to go to war. "The group trains child soldiers for a few weeks, and many children feel proud of themselves. After the training, the group sends them to the frontlines. Some survive, others are killed or injured. And some are lost."

According to Ali, his son was 14 years old when he joined the Houthi group, and he had no idea about the use of weapons but was attracted to the financial reward the Houthi gave.

Yemen has faced a massive economic crisis, and children have been the victims of growing poverty and economic deterioration. While there are several reasons for child recruitment, the dire economic situation is the chief reason.

In 2022, Houthi authorities signed an action plan with the United Nations, pledging to end the recruitment of children as soldiers. In 2012, Houthi leaders pledged to end child soldiers' use in war. However, the pledges remain unfulfilled.