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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

US state department video shows Houthi rebel boasting army of child soldiers

Thousands of children, as young as 11 years old, have allegedly been used in combat in Yemen since 2015

Yemeni child stands outside temporary shelters at a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the eastern province of Marib. EPA 
Yemeni child stands outside temporary shelters at a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the eastern province of Marib. EPA 

The US state department on Thursday released a video which it said shows a Houthi rebel boasting about training young school children as soldiers, while officials in Yemen criticise the international community for remaining silent over such abuses.

“These are the students of Imam Al Nasser School. They went for training today and the exercises were very tough,” says the unidentified rebel fighter, pointing to dozens of school children who gathered around him as he shot the video.

“God willing, these are the ones who will fight America and Israel… they are practising now and they are still a young generation,” he added.

It was not immediately clear when the footage was captured.

Child soldiers have become an increasingly common feature of the war in Yemen.

The UN estimates that 517 children were recruited in 2016. This number rose to 842 one year later. Around 2,369 children, as young as 11 years old, have allegedly been used in combat in Yemen since 2015, according to an official tally.

Houthi rebels are believed to be the main force behind child recruitment. Out of the 842 recruited child soldiers in 2017, 534 fought under the Houthi rebels, according to The Borgen Project, an international NGO.

A field study by the Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation, a Saudi-backed Yemeni NGO, claims that 80 per cent of child soldiers in Yemen join rebels to earn money.

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Yemen’s Minister of State, General Abdul Ghani Jamil on Thursday criticized the international community for remaining silent over child recruitment by the Houthi militia.

Speaking during a conference on child recruitment, he accused Houthi rebels of using educational institutions and schools to collect young recruits.

Earlier this month, Rasha Jarhum, Founder and Director of the Peace Track Initiative Yemen, called for a ban on the recruitment of child soldiers.

Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, where 8.3 million people are dependent on food aid, according to the UN. The nearly three-year civil war has pushed the country to edge of famine with outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria.

Nearly 85,000 children under the age of five have died from acute malnutrition in Yemen since the start of the conflict, the UK-based Save the Children charity said this month , after humanitarian officials warned that the war-torn nation was heading towards the worst famine in history.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to push back the Houthi rebels and restore the government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi. The Houthi rebels, backed by the Iranian regime, have repeatedly launched ballistic missile towards Saudi.