Houthi Militia Has Pushed Children into the War Field
1. More than ten thousand children have been recruited by the Houthis.
2. More than 2,000 children have been killed in fighting.
3. Children aged six to 13 are forced into the war.
4. Parents are threatened with dire consequences if they refuse to send their children to training camps.
By New Age Islam Staff Writer
23 June 2022
Nearly 2,000 child soldiers died fighting for the Houthis between January 2020 and May 2021, according to the UN [File: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]
The war in Yemen between the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi militia has been going on since 2014 when the Houthis had captured Yemen's capital city Sanaa forcing the Yemen government to the South. In 2015, Saudi Arabia entered the conflict and since then the civil war has turned into a regional conflict. More than 150,000 people have been killed so far and the infrastructure of the impoverished country has been heavily damaged. The country is facing famine like situation. People of Yemen do not have safe drinking water, sufficient food, health facilities and medicines. Children are the worst affected lot in this war. They face starvation and death due to the war.
The worst part of the crisis is that the Houthi militia has been pushing Yemeni children into the war as soldiers. Children as young as six years and as old as 13 years are being recruited by the Houthis and sent to the war front. This is a gross violation of child rights and of the international protocols.
This is in violation of their own pledge taken in 2012. They had pledged to end the use of child soldiers in the war. In April 2022, the Houthis had again signed an action plan with the UN to stop the recruitment of child soldiers in the war but the aid agencies working in Yemen have reported that the Houthis have intensified recruitment of child soldiers due to the escalation of war in recent weeks. This is a serious breach of UN charter and amounts to committing war crimes.
The Houthis go door to door in their captured areas and ask the parents to send their children to the training camps which they call 'summer camps'. In these camps, the children are first imparted ideological education and then given combat training before sending them to the battle field. Many children have died fighting the Yemeni government and Saudi coalition forces.
The Houthis hold these 'summer camps' in schools and mosques. They threaten the parents that if they do not send their children to the summer camps, they will not receive food. In a country where food is scarce, parents are compelled to send their minor children to fight as professional soldiers. The Houthis say that 12 year old children are not children but true men who fight to defend their county and Islam. The children are taught to shout the slogans, 'Death to Israel', 'Death to America', Curse to the Jews' etc.
The children are made to belive that they are fighting the Jews and the Americans who are the enemies of Islam whereas the truth is that the war is being fought on sectarian lines and the opponents are the Muslims.
Though the Houthis are apparently fighting for Islam they are violating the principles of Islam and the tradition of the holy prophet pbuh who did not allow minor children in battles. Even in the modern age the age for enlistment in the army is 17 to 18 years in most of the Muslim and non-Muslim countries. The lowest is 16 years which is in Bangladesh.
According to a report of the UN, from January 2020 to May 2021, 2,000 children have died in the war.
According to a report of The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the SAM for Rights and Liberties, the Houthis have forcibly recruited 10,300 children in Yemen since 2014, warning of dangerous consequences failing to address this phenomenon might cause.
The report stated that the Houthis use complex patterns to forcibly recruit children and put them in hostile areas under its control in Yemen. Many children were killed, as a result, and hundreds were injured. The report documented the names of 111 children who were killed during the battles between July and August 2020 only.
The report, entitled “Militarizing Childhood”, highlighted the Houthis’ use of schools and educational facilities to lure children to recruitment. The group uses an education system that incites violence and teaches the group’s ideology through special lectures inside the official educational facilities to fill students with extremist ideas and encourage them to join the fight to support the group's military actions.
The report indicated that during the past three years (2018, 2019, 2020) the Houthis began an open and compulsory campaign to recruit children. The group opened 52 training camps for thousands of adolescents and children in Saada, Sanaa, Al Mahwit, Hodeidah, Tihama, Hajjah and Dhamar, targeting children 10 years old or above.
However, it would be wrong to hold only the Houthis responsible for this plight of the Yemeni people, particularly Yemeni children. All the stakeholders, Saudi Arabia, its allies, Yemen government and Iran and the US, are equally responsible for this humanitarian crisis.
The atmosphere of insecurity fuelled by the US in the region is at the root of this crisis. The Saudi Arabia saw the emergence of Iran backed Houthi militia in its neighbouring Yemen as a threat to its economic and security. Iran has used the Houthis to further its economic and political interests in the region at the cost of Yemeni people. They should learn a lesson from Russia which despite its hostilities with Ukraine has sent humanitarian assistance for the people of Ukraine. Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Islamic countries have not done much to solve the crisis and help the people affected by famine and food shortage.
The UN needs to take some concrete steps to stop recruitment of innocent children by the Houthis and also bombardment of schools housing children. Islamic countries, particularly, the OIC should intervene to stop the war and save Yemeni people from starvation.
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