The Houthi militia in Yemen have forcibly recruited 10,300 children in Yemen since 2014, according to a latest report that revealed the Iran-backed militant group have used schools and educational facilities to lure minors to recruitment.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the SAM for Rights and Liberties said in a report released on Friday that said that the Houthis use complex patterns to forcibly recruit children and put them in hostile areas under its control in Yemen.
“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,” read the report released on February 12 to mark the “International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers” (also known as Red Hand Day).
The report said that in the past three years, the Houthis have been running an open and compulsory campaign to recruit children. Specifically, the Houthis have opened 52 training camps for thousands of adolescents and children in Saada, Sanaa, al-Mahwit, Hodeidah, Tihama, Hajjah and Dhamar.
The Houthis have specifically targeted children 10 years old or above, according to the report.
The report released on Friday comes as the United States will officially remove the Iran-backed Houthi militia and its leaders from its terror lists next week, according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The Houthis have been ramping up their terror attacks on Saudi Arabia in the past week, claiming responsibility for a drone attack on a civilian airplane at Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport on Thursday and launching bomb-laden drones and a ballistic missile intercepted by the Arab Coalition.
The latest reports on child soldiers being recruited by the Houthis revealed that the Houthis force children into ideological programs first before sending them to military training camps to attend a one-month course. Houthi child soldiers are then sent to battlefronts to participate in direct clashes, laying mines and guarding military points.
“I was assigned with loading the guns and transporting them with foodstuffs to high, rugged areas. It was hard and exhausting. I used to get beaten and reprimanded when I arrived late. I cried a lot during those nights, fearing for my life and for missing my mother, father and brothers,” said one child, 14 and identified as H.A. in the report, on his experience fighting for the Houthis in Nihm.
Child recruitment is a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
“What is more troubling is not only the inclusion of children in military operations but feeding their simple minds with extremist ideas and filling them with hate speech and violence, and thus creating future extremists who may not be easily controlled given the huge number that the group recruits or aims to recruit in the future,” said Anas Jerjawi, Euro-Med Monitor MENA Regional Director.