AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni government officials, human rights groups, and child protection advocates have called for international action to force the Iran-backed Houthis to stop indoctrinating and recruiting children for battle.
They warned that those recruited by the militia would become radical fighters who would undermine security in Yemen, the region, and the rest of the world.
Their warnings and demands came as fresh videos leaked from Houthi-managed summer camps showed the militia subjecting children to endurance activities and training them to use arms.
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani accused the Houthis of extensively enlisting children in areas under their control through annual summer camps where they brainwashed children, gave them military lessons, and later dispatched them to fight government troops.
“Houthi militia escalates child recruitment & pushing them to frontlines amid a surprising & unjustified Intl silence, & failure of human rights & child protection orgs to play their role in condemning this heinous crime, and stopping the mass killing of Yemeni children,” he tweeted, sharing a “shocking” video of children as young as 10 being trained at one of the camps.
1-مشهد صادم لاحد المعسكرات التي استحدثتها مليشيا الحوثي الإرهابية التابعة لايران لاستدراج وتجنيد وتدريب أطفال دون ( 10 اعوام) تحت غطاء ما تسميها "المراكز الصيفية" تحضيرا للزج بهم في مختلف جبهات القتال في ظل الهدنة الأممية، وردا على مساعي التهدئة وانهاء الحرب واحلال السلام pic.twitter.com/7GGR9yaeX7
— معمر الإرياني (@ERYANIM) June 18, 2022
He warned that they would go on to fuel violence in Yemen and undermine UN-brokered efforts to reach a sustainable peace settlement in the country.
Last month, the Houthis launched their annual summer camps for children across densely populated areas under their control.
Thousands are said to have joined the camps, where they are taught to correctly recite the Qur'an, receive Islamic lessons, and taught how to confront false ideas from the West, according to the Houthis.
But videos leaked from the camps or those that appear on Houthi–controlled media show the children being prepared for fighting.
In one of the videos, a Houthi man in a classroom teaches children as young as 10 how to use an AK-47. The man can be seen handing the weapon over to children, who take turns trying it out.
Children in other videos are seen pledging their allegiance to the Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi and vowing to fight his opponents inside and outside the country.
The images of young children carrying weapons or chanting hate slogans sparked outrage among Yemenis who called for the Houthis to be punished for violating international child protection charters and exploiting the UN-brokered truce to swell their ranks with young fighters.
“The Houthis continue to violate the rights of children in Yemen. This Houthi teaches students to use weapons in order to push them to the fronts,” said Yemeni activist Nadia Abdullah.
Yemeni journalist Ahmed Al-Mosibly called the Houthi summer camps “time bombs” that prepared some people to kill others and serve Iran’s agendas in Yemen. “Unfortunately, there are still parties inside and outside the country that are not well aware of the danger of the Iranian expansionist project,” he tweeted.
Yemeni journalist Ammar Zabal, who was a media officer at a Saudi-funded child soldier rehabilitation center in Marib, met young Houthi fighters.
He told Arab News the influence of Houthi indoctrination lessons had made some children hate the community and the Yemenis who opposed the movement.
“The influence of the toxic Houthi thoughts on those children is huge,” Zabal said.
Ahmed Al-Qurashi, director of the SEYAJ Organization for the Protection of Children, told Arab News that child recruitment in Yemen had accelerated during the past few months despite the truce and extensive efforts to strike a deal to end the war. He warned that the child soldiers recruited today would become veteran fighters who would undermine regional and international security.
“The increasing recruitment of children in Yemen is evidence that all initiatives and proposals to protect children have failed. It also shows the failure of the UN initiatives, including an agreement with the Houthis regarding stopping the recruitment of children in fighting,” Al-Qurashi said.