The Gulf European Centre for Human Rights
Houthis’ Children Exploitation
4th September 2018
The domination of the Yemeni political institutions by the Houthi militias, the occupation of Sana'a, the capital of the Yemeni state, and their control over all resources, economic, commercial, military, cultural and social sectors led to the destruction of infrastructure and the deterioration of economic and living conditions. Children are the most important victims of this aggression and the war that broke out in Yemen in order to liberate it from the Houthi militias, support the legitimate government and restore Yemeni sovereignty.
In February 2017, the United Nations agencies documented about 1,500 cases of child recruitment in Yemen, mostly by the Houthis (Amnesty International 2017). UNICEF also estimates that child soldiers make up about a third of combatants on the battlefield (Al-Sakkaf 2015). These shocking statistics about the casualty of war (children) are in total contradiction with the international agreements and conventions on the need to protect, care and assist children in all areas.
The Houthis exploit the miserable living conditions, the deteriorating economic situation, the disruption of schools because of the lack of equipment and supplies, as well as teachers strike because they do not receive their monthly salaries. The Houthis set up local centres and extremist religious schools to fill the educational and educational vacuum resulting from their religious, political, military, economic and social practices. Thus, children are transferred to these centres and schools to receive lessons and lectures that include sectarian incitement, sectarian hostility and hate speech against Saudi Arabia, the Arab Alliance, the Yemeni Army, and the National Resistance. In addition, children are motivated by contract and ideology to join the fighting (Amnesty International 2017).
Moreover, it is noted that The Houthis brainwash Yemeni children in their areas of control by exaggerating the importance of the combat role they will play in the fight against al Qaeda and extremists. They teach children that the legitimate Yemeni army and the Arab coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia are fundamentalists who support terrorist groups in order to destroy Yemen. As a result, children between the ages of 13 and 17 are affected by these exciting themes and motivated to embark on dangerous adventures. This is because children at this age are eager to play important roles, bring attention, and experiment with new things. Therefore, Houthis benefit from these behaviours and the childish way of thinking to deceive and convince children. They recruit and arm them with machine guns and send them to the lines of fire on the fronts to fight and die (Al-Sakkaf 2015).
Furthermore, it is suggested that children who are exploited and recruited by the Houthis are usually from poor families who have great problems in providing a living cost. The Houthis exploit this problem and promote the children's families by giving them a monthly salary of about $ 80 to $ 120 if the child is killed in the war (Amnesty International 2017).
These systematic behaviours and practices used by the Houthis to exploit and recruit children to constitute a flagrant violation of international law. Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 pointed out the need for the provision of safety, protection and medical facilities for the elderly and children in areas of armed conflict. Also, the Convention on the Rights of the Child ensured the protection of children from violence, exploitation, recruitment, and participation in wars.
Article 6 (2) stipulates that the child's life and development must be preserved. As well as Article 19 (1) stipulates that the child should not be subjected to any kind of violence, physical or mental injury, abuse, neglect or exploitation. Further, Article 32 refers to the protection of the child from economic exploitation and the carrying out of any dangerous work that harms the child's development and health, whether physically, mentally, spiritually, morally or socially. Article 36 is complementary to what has been stated. It stipulates that the child must be protected from exploitation in all its forms, which harms his well-being, safety, stability, and development. More importantly, Article 38(2 and 3) prohibits the direct participation of children in war. As well as the recruitment of children into the armed forces should be banned (Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989).
In addition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child have guaranteed the rights of children to free education, good upbringing, and proper development. It completely contradicts the patterns and methods of education and upbringing of the Houthis.
Article 26 (1 and 2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that free education must be compulsory at the primary and basic levels, as well as technical and vocational education should be mainstreamed. Moreover, the goal of raising children must be to develop the spirit of their humanity, to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, understanding, tolerance, and friendship, away from religious, sectarian and ethnic racism.
Furthermore, Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the child must be educated in a meaningful manner that leads to the development of his or her mental and physical abilities, as it is based on respect for human rights, public freedoms, tolerance and respect for different races, religions, sects, and cultures.
Besides, it is pointed out that Many of the recruitment and transfer of children to the front lines are carried out forcibly and without the consent of their parents. But the families of child soldiers do not talk or pursue the problem because they fear that their families or children will be attacked by the Houthis (Amnesty International 2017). As a further matter, many of these recruited children are killed on the battlefield and many of them injured severely or returned with disabilities. As a result, their families continue to suffer from difficulties in living and deteriorating economic conditions (Al-Sakkaf 2015).
These arbitrary and illegitimate measures are in complete contradiction to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the rights and duties of parents towards their children. Article 5 stipulates that the duties of parents responsible for the child must be respected and they should be assisted in providing guidance that is commensurate with the child's abilities and talents.
Al-Sakkaf, N. (2015) ‘Casualty of war: Child Soldier in Yemen’. Middle East Eye [online]. available from < https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/casualty-war-child-soldiers-yemen-1775188735> [01 September 2018]
Amnesty International (2017) ‘Yemen: Huthi forces recruiting child soldiers for front-line combat’. [online]. available from <https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/02/yemen-huthi-forces-recruiting-child-soldiers-for-front-line-combat/ > [02 September 2018]
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
Geneva Convention Relative to The Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)