Exclusive: Houthis Exploit Poverty-Struck Children as Cannon Fodder
Yemeni local activists have recently been baffled by an overwhelming silence of human rights organizations on Houthi recruitment of minors. Over 4,500 accounts of child soldiers lodged onto battlefronts have been made.
In the governorate of Marib, officials and the general public agree infrastructure damage pales in comparison to the size of harm done by militias inciting and recruiting poverty-driven children with hate speech.
Rehabilitating child soldiers has proven to be the most difficult challenge faced by the internationally-recognized Yemeni government headed by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
“The rehabilitation of children recruited and participating in the war costs over $200,000 for 80 children in one month,” government sources said.
The Hadi administration is already trying to balance a depreciating national currency in hopes of improving one of the worst economic crises ever known to the war-torn country.
In exclusive interviews, most child soldiers agreed that poverty was the chief driver behind their recruitment.
After attending Houthi-designed cultural seminars on fighting the ‘bad guys,’ in boot camps, a child soldier will take home a 25,000 Yemeni riyal commission for joining militia ranks.
Recruited children said that the payments will be made only twice. After being dispatched to frontlines, payments would cease.
Nawaf Abu Sa'id, 14, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the love of adventure and experience was new.
“I was the first to join Houthi militias…they were offering modern weapons, machineguns and the like,” said Nawaf.
He went on to describe that it was an instilled part of culture to define bravery and social male prominence through a display of arms.
Simply explaining his dreams, Nawaf said he never wanted more than working to help provide for his family of seven.
“This opportunity came with arms and money-- I did not hesitate, and I immediately accepted,” he said.
Mohammed al-Mu'awadi, 15, says that the first experience offered by the recruitment process was that of intensified religious and ideological teachings focused on changing the naturally existing cultural beliefs.
Mu’awadi has served at different Houthi-assigned posts, including frontline combat, logistics and security checks.
Abdul Rahman al-Qubati, director of the rehabilitation project for child soldiers and children affected by war, said that out of 215 rehabilitated children, his team has registered 50 accounts of children affected by war, and 165 who were recruited by militias.