JEDDAH (Arabnews): Fighters from the Iran-backed Houthi militia have openly boasted of recruiting child soldiers as young as 10 to fight in the Yemen war.
New video footage on social media shows dozens of children in uniforms standing in military formation in a camp in Dhamar province, declaring allegiance to Abdul-Malek Al-Houthi.
“Soldiers of God,” they shout. “We are coming.”
An aid worker who operates in remote northern areas described watching children manning checkpoints along the road, with AK-47 assault rifles hanging on their shoulders. Others were sent to the front line, he said, and children had returned wounded from fighting at Marib.
One hard-line Houthi fighter said: “These are not children. They are true men, who should defend their nation.”
Nearly 2,000 Houthi-recruited children were killed on the battlefield between January 2020 and May 2021, according to UN experts. Overall, the UN says over 10,200 children have been killed or maimed in the war, though it is not known how many were combatants.
A UN panel of experts said this year that the Houthis had a system to indoctrinate child soldiers, including the use of humanitarian aid to pressure families. Children are told they are joining a holy war against Jews and Christians and Arab countries that have succumbed to Western influence, and seven-year-olds are taught weapons cleaning and how to dodge rockets.
Two farmers in Amran province said Houthi representatives came to their homes in May and told them to prepare their children for camps.
Their five children aged between 11 and 16 were taken in late May to a training center in a nearby school. One father said he was told that if he didn’t send his children, his family would no longer receive food rations.