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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Houthi faction cannot be allowed to create a lost generation

Yemeni schoolchildren, some as young as 10, are being conscripted by the militants. The group must be stopped

Young Houthi militants. Reuters
Young Houthi militants. Reuters

Last year marked a series of lows for the Houthis, the militant group that has done so much to stir up conflict in Yemen. In May, the group fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh the day before Donald Trump, the US president, was due to arrive in Saudi Arabia on his inaugural foreign visit. The unsuccessful attack was the prelude to further assaults by the group in November and December. The relative sophistication of the weaponry used in the attacks suggested direct Iranian involvement, something the regime in Tehran contested, but the point was thoroughly backed up by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who “declassified” segments of two recovered missiles from the attack, describing them as “concrete evidence of illegal Iranian weapons proliferation”. Later the same month, the Houthis ended their alliance of convenience with Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s former president, by accusing him of staging a coup after he said he was willing to pursue conflict-resolution talks with the Saudi-led coalition. Houthi fighters shot him dead outside Sanaa in early December. Reflecting on the events, Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, described the Houthis as a “sectarian militia of thieves”.

The new year brings a new low for the Houthis - now they are even stealing the childhoods of Yemen’s youth. As The National reported, the militia has been conscripting children to boost their beleaguered ranks. Reports say the militia have been snatching boys from a Sanaa orphanage and recruiting primary school students as young as 10. Once conscripted, the children are sent away for a short period of training before being packed off to the battlefield. An earlier UN report had documented a significant and alarming increase in the “recruitment and use of children” by the Houthis. The report identified incidents of coercion through a campaign of misinformation. The war in Yemen has taken its toll on all of the country's civilian population, but especially on its children.

The evidence is conclusive and helps explain once again, the UAE’s continuing commitment to resolving the conflict in Yemen and restoring peace and stability to the country. The Houthis hijacked Yemen when they deposed the legitimate government. They stifle hope by actions such as threatening to block shipping traffic in the Red Sea. Restoring a legitimate government in Sanaa is vital, and urgency is a must to stop snatching away the childhood of an entire generation of the nation's youth.