Underage 'martyrs': Recruiting child soldiers in Yemen

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Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

In Yemen, families send their children to so-called summer camps. There, adolescents are given combat training and taught why they should fight for God. Both government forces and Houthi rebels use child soldiers.

The recruitment of child soldiers is without a doubt one of the most upsetting of the many human rights violations that have been documented during Yemen's civil war.

In their annual report on Children and Armed Conflict, published in May this year, United Nations researchers counted 211 cases of children being recruited to fight in Yemen in 2020. Of these, 134 were boys and 29 were girls recruited by the Houthis.

The Houthis defended themselves against the UN report by arguing that it had been prepared by their enemies, the US and the Gulf states.

Both sides involved

But it is not just the Houthis who are using child soldiers. The UN report also noted that Yemeni government troops counted 34 under-age fighters in their ranks too. A further 14 children were recruited by other organizations fighting there. 

However, the recruitment methods of the Yemeni Government and the Houthis are not even comparable, confirmed Tawfik al-Hamidi, who heads the Switzerland-based SAM for Rights and Liberties. Only a few child soldiers actually end up fighting on the side of the Yemeni government, al-Hamidi told DW. Most are given jobs like guard duty, he said. 

It is a different story with the Houthis. According to his organization's February 2021 study, Militarizing Childhood, the Houthi rebels may well have recruited over 10,000 Yemeni children since 2014 and the beginnings of the conflict.

Read the full story published on 10th July 2021 by Deutsche Welle​ here.

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