Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Houthis have indoctrinated 50,000 child soldiers, says Yemeni minister

Muammar Al Eryani accused the Houthis of exploiting vulnerable orphans for recruitment

Child soldiers are said to guard key places in Houthi-controlled Sana'a. EPA 
Child soldiers are said to guard key places in Houthi-controlled Sana'a. EPA 

Houthi rebels have recruited and indoctrinated about 50,000 child soldiers, Yemen’s Information Minister said.

Muammar Al Eryani said that young children were trained for military action and ideologically brainwashed.

Mr Al Eryani accused the Houthis of exploiting the vulnerability of young people in orphanages by recruiting them to their rebel cause.

“Those children will be time bombs. Fifty thousand children,” he said at London’s Royal United Services Institute on Thursday.

Fifty thousand time bombs will not just explode in the face of the Yemeni people, but the whole world.

“They have the ideology of fighting and hatred. They have been raised that everyone is an unbeliever and they are the only Muslims."

Mr Al Eryani shared pictures he had obtained showing children armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers at a school, and patrolling strategic places in Sanaa including the Houthi’s defence ministry.

Another showed a handful of young people surrounding former Houthi Revolutionary Committee president Mohamed Ali Al Houthi. Mr Al Eryani claimed they were being used as human shields.

He accused the Houthis of giving children magazines that incited holy war in an attempt to radicalise them.

“In each school children are taken and killed in the frontline," Mr Al Eryani said. "I consider them martyrs because they are children, they don’t understand anything."

He shared a letter that he said showed a Houthi commander asking for a pupil to be given 100 per cent in exams and excuse the boy from studying because he was on the front line.

Mr Al Eryani was speaking alongside Alistair Burt, who until recently was the UK’s minister for North Africa and the Middle East.

Mr Burt said the world had “tended to look at the issue in Yemen in a pretty biased way".

“The UK concentrated on our support for the coalition and let the Houthis off relatively lightly in terms of their activities, and I think that’s been wrong,” he told the audience.

Mr Al Eryani criticised the conduct of the Houthis in Hodeidah.

Despite initially positive signs that the rebels were withdrawing from the vital port city and a ceasefire was being observed, reports say fighting has started again.

He accused the Houthis of failing to surrender explosives and not allowing a UN monitoring mission into the port.

Mr Al Eryani said the international community had been misled into believing the Houthis had withdrawn, describing it as a “big scandal”.

“How can we make sure that is a real withdrawal? How can we say that we agree and that the withdrawal took place?” he asked.

“We say repeatedly that we are prepared to come to peace and to provide peace by any means."

Updated: May 16, 2019 11:41 PM

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