Their innocence was assassinated, and their childhood violated as they were recruited to the battlegrounds to become the frontlines and shields in a war filled with atrocities.
On Thursday, the “Mayyun” organization for human rights in Yemen released a report titled “Child Warriors,” which monitored the recruitment of children in Yemen from July 1, 2021, to December 2022. The release of the report coincides with the worsening human rights violations perpetrated by Houthi militias against Yemenis, particularly in the abducted capital, Sanaa.
Mayyun’s report is the second of its kind, recognizing the seriousness of child recruitment violations during the war and their long-term impact on Yemeni children.
Abdo Ali Al-Hudayfi, the organization’s president, stated that the report documented 2,233 children directly used in the armed conflict, with the Houthi responsible for 98.9% of child recruitment in the combat zones.
He added that approximately 60% of these children had lost their lives on the battlefronts. The report confirmed the deaths of 1,309 children and the injuries of 351 others, including one Somali national, with some suffering from deformities.
Al-Hudayfi noted that the age group most susceptible to recruitment violations by the Houthis ranged from 16 to 17 years old. The report also documented reports of 25 children belonging to African migrants being recruited, some of whom were verified in Sanaa and Hajjah.
He revealed that the report documented that the Houthis had granted military ranks to 556 children who had been killed in their ranks, with these ranks ranging from officer to non-commissioned officer. Additionally, 753 children killed were labeled as soldiers in their official records. He confirmed that the Houthis had used these fabricated ranks as incentives to attract child recruits.
Efforts to Raise Awareness
Al-Hudayfi also mentioned human rights efforts to bring these violations to the attention of international and UN bodies concerned with child rights. He emphasized the importance of creating awareness and societal and public pressure to stop the crimes committed by the Houthis against children.
Amin Al-Mashouli, a consultant at Mayyun and one of the study’s implementers, stated that the report relied on an open-source methodology. It then verified the information using precise scientific methods.
He affirmed that the organization possessed a professional legal and human rights team with a high level of expertise in monitoring human rights violations. He also noted that the organization had a specialized technical and oversight team.
The report concluded, based on monitoring results, that the top ten governorates where Houthi militias recruited children were Sanaa, Hajjah, Dhamar, Saada, Sanaa Capital, Amran, Ibb, Hodeidah, Taiz, and Al-Mahweet.
The report also noted a decrease in the number of child casualties recruited by the Houthis during the UN-mediated ceasefires, which began in April 2021 and were extended in two stages. This decrease occurred despite the militias not ceasing their recruitment, mobilization, and induction efforts during those periods.
The report highlighted the methods and means used by the Houthis to recruit children, including exploiting the living conditions of children’s families, ideological indoctrination and hate speech, control over religious and educational institutions, use of summer camps, abduction, and pressure on tribal leaders.
Demands and Recommendations
In conclusion, Mayyun called on all parties to fully comply with international agreements, cease immediate child recruitment, and release all children involved in armed conflict. They urged the Houthis to stop exploiting and recruiting children and involving them in armed conflicts.
The international community was also urged to exert more pressure on the Houthi group by imposing sanctions on those responsible for child recruitment. The UN special envoy was recommended to visit Yemen for a direct assessment of child recruitment.
Additionally, rehabilitation efforts for recruited children, both psychologically and socially, before their reintegration into society, were recommended to prevent them from engaging in violence in their local environments. The Houthis were also urged to prevent the exploitation of schools and summer camps for child recruitment and ideological influence.