Why Do Summer Camps Spark a Controversy in Yemen?

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-05-09 06:31 PM UTC


Hundreds of thousands of children flock every day to summer camps in North Yemen, where the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group dominates. The group organizes summer camps every year and exerts its utmost efforts to push the maximum number of children to participate in this annual activity.

The Houthi group argues that the prime goal of summer camps is to "protect young people from false cultures, prepare a generation armed with Qur'anic culture and faith education, and confront the enemy and his plans that target the nation religiously."

However, such a Houthi argument infuriates multitudes of Yemenis, who insist that the summer camps are a "season of child recruitment".

Muammar Al-Eryani, the Minister of Information in the Yemeni government, warned yesterday against the Houthi group's attempt to establish "closed" religious schools, glorifying "extremist thoughts" and demolishing the educational process.

Al-Eryani accused the Houthi group of transforming government schools into camps to lure and recruit children and young people under the guise of summer centers.

According to the Yemeni minister, the Houthi summer camps "turn children into tools of killing and destruction and time bombs to threaten regional and international security and peace."

Numerous rights organizations and activists have sounded the alarm about the summer camps in North Yemen, saying that such camps will lead more children to join the front lines, which will prolong the civil war.

Mohammad Azzan, one of the founders of the Houthi "Believer Youth Forum," said the summer camps were the fertile ground within which the Houthis worked and then transformed it into an armed movement ten years after the beginning of such camps in Sa'ada province.

When the group took over Sanaa in 2014 and toppled the government in 2015 in line with their military expansion to other provinces, Houthi summer camps were held in every area under their control.

Today, Houthi sources estimate the number of summer camps to be over 9000 in all provinces under their control.

In February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Houthi group had recruited more than 70,000 new fighters during the last three months in the provinces of Dhamar, Sanaa, Saada, Amran, Hajjah, and Al-Hudaydah.

The organization said the vast majority of recruits are aged 13 to 25, including at least hundreds or thousands who are younger than 18.

As the Houthis continue to take pride in the number of children that join their summer camps, other Yemenis consider such a matter a genuine threat to the country and a hindrance to lasting peace.