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Yemen's bloodshed is unmistakably linked to the Arab Spring, which spread through Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and Syria. In the specific nations, the spring has left an everlasting ruin. Many of the countries affected suffer from a lack of peace and fragile discontinuous strife. The explanation for the speculation is the fighters' apparent irreconcilable discrepancies. The terrorist movements have vested interests, some of which are religious in nature. The infighting has paved the way for the rise of lawlessness, which has aided the growth of insurgent and militant movements. The Islamic State (IS) is present in virtually every country. The IS so far is the most dangerous terrorist group in the world. It has the goal of establishing Caliphate states across the Arab world. The nature of the Yemeni war paints a terrible picture of endlessness. The saddest part of it is the use of children as soldiers. Some of the fighters are recruiting children into their battalions, which has distressed the global human rights organizations.
The Beginning of the War
Before tackling the thesis of the use of child soldiers, it is important to analyze the start of the war. The Yemeni violence was the consequence of a failed political transition intended to stabilize the country after the overthrow the authoritarian leader Abdullah Saleh Ali. In the development of 2011, the president handed power to the deputy Mr. Hadi (BBC News n.p). The new president struggled to address some problems that included the threat of al-Qaeda that was eminent in the southern region. Another issue was that much military personnel increased their loyalty to the overthrown President Saleh. Other problems that Mr. Hadi tried to address were food insecurity, corruption, and unemployment.
The Houthi group that advances the interest of the minority Muslim faction called Zaidi Shia took advantage of the absence of a proper government. It is important to understand the Houthi group has troubled Mr. Saleh's regime with a sequence of rebellions fights (BBC News n.p). The Houthi team used the current weakness to establish its grip on the northern region of Saada and the surrounding provinces. When ordinary Yemenis including Sunnis lost hope in the transition, they started supporting the Houthi fighters in 2014. With this increased power, the Houthi and the supporters entered Sanaa, erected roadblocks, and street camps.
By January 2015, the Houthi increased their dominion over Sanaa and surrounded the presidential palace. According to BBC News, the group subjected the President Mr. Hadi and his cabinet to house arrest (n.p). However, the President managed to escape after one into Aden to the south. In March of 2015, Mr. Hadi left the country after the military forces supporting Mr. Saleh and the Houthi joined to control the whole Yemen.
The Saudi Arabia and other eight Arab countries, mostly aligned to Sunni Islam made plans to support the government of Mr. Hadi. The coalition understood that the rebels gained support from Iran Shia forces (BBC News n.p). The group got the intelligence and logistics from the United Kingdom and the United States. Collectively, they launched airstrikes targeted on the rebels. The group also displaced the rebels from Aden, where Mr. Hadi and his cabinet established a temporary residence after leaving exile. However, the pro-government fighter failed to dislodge the rebels from the northern parts of Sanaa. The Houthis continued annexing cities and expanding their attacks into Saudi Arabia. In the meantime, the al-Qaeda Jihadists and the Islamic States (IS) have to seize territories on the south and intensify the war against the Aden region under the government.
Recruitment of Children Soldiers
The number of child soldiers participating in the Yemen war is alarming. Gatten reports that nearly a third of the Yemeni fighters are children (n.p). The soldiers recruit children as young as fourteen years and place them in the frontline as combatants. Al-Karimi decries that the prolonged nature of the war has left the factions desperate for soldiers and in need of further recruitment (n.p). Amnesty International reports a testimony of one of the brothers to a child fighter that the Houthis admitted suffering a shortage of soldiers (n.p). As such, they go around families and taking recruits. Gupta despises that the population of the Houthi fighters is between 20000 and 30000 and about 40% are children below 18 years while 25% are boys below 16 years. The Houthi group is desperate for fighters to the extent that it gives recruitment quotas to the local representatives. In some cases, the Houthi leaders threaten the agents especially when the latter do not meet their quotas. Al-Karimi adds that the conflict has made the illegal war to be legitimate in the Arab's poorest country (n.p).
The Times of India reports that the Yemeni warring factions especially the Houthis have recruited over 1500 children into their battalions (n,p). Between March 2015 and January 2017, the United Nations verified the employment of 1476 boys by the fighter groups. United Nations (U.N) confirmed that in 2014, over 100 children with some only six years enjoined in the ongoing fights. The Times of India reports the belief of the UN that the number could be higher considering the unwillingness of families to talk about the recruitments (n.p).
Reasons and strategies used in recruitment of child soldiers
As the war perpetuates, fighters have used children to escalate the conflict. Some reasons and strategies are responsible increase in the number of children recruited into the forces. First, the fighters lure children into the battlefields because of their desire for money. This statement means that the fighters persuade children with the promise of money. The war in Yemen has closed nearly all opportunities for income generation. People are enduring severe poverty and vulnerable to any conditions. By far, war is the only available source of revenues and families are willing to let their children join with the hope of sending them a monthly salary. Gatten clarifies that the children at war receive between $3 and $6 daily (n.p). This pay is usually additional to the hot meals they receive. Various reports have highlighted the problems of the starving and malnourished children Yemen. Second, children are hopeless and dreamless, as they do not attend schools that closed due to intensified fights. The joint forces have destroyed schools and other crucial infrastructure that could help children. Teachers no longer attend schools due to several months of unpaid salaries. This humanitarian problem facing children is leading to multifaceted troubles.
Amnesty International reveals the Houthi forces have been the greatest reliant on the child soldiers (n.p). The soldiers comprise of boys as young as fifteen years and place them at the frontlines. The report by Amnesty International came after the body interviewed families of four from Sanaa boys absorbed into the fights. The recruitment was secretive because the families only received alerts from residents after the kids left already. The inhabitants, who made the signals, indicated that they saw the particular children among six others boarding a bus at a terminus in Sanaa. Later, the families of the four boys received reports that the children were in unnamed place near the Saudi-Yemeni border. Amnesty Intentional regrets that such acts are denying the children parental protection and childhood (n.p).
The third reason and strategy used by the fighters to recruit children is the indoctrination of their ideas into the helpless children and lead them to war. The training entails the persuasion of the children that their involvement in the wars is an act of defending the community. According to Amnesty International, Houthi representatives in the localities operate local centers that conduct activities like sermons, prayers, and lectures that entail the encouragement of children and men to enter the frontline battles to defend their country against the inversion of Saudi Arabia (n.p). An eyewitness revealed that the two among the four boys that went missing attended a Quran school in Sanaa in January for religion induction (Amnesty International n.p). While attending the installation, the children were lost from their parents, who never knew their whereabouts. Amnesty International reports that one father shared that the son described the curriculum at the indoctrination classes as involving the history of the two world wars and the description of the fight as an inversion of Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition (n.p).
The fourth reason that escalates the recruitment of the children soldiers in Yemen attributes to the obsession among the recruits to wear the war regalia and kill. Since children are hopeless and idle in the societies, they have the thought that fighting and wearing the military uniforms are interest things. Another reason and strategy used to increase child soldiers relate to the quietness of families to refuse the acts. Amnesty International reveals that the Houthi operatives silence the families of the children killed in the front line of war by giving them a monthly salary and a gun (n.p). Victim families fear punishment against the members if they talk about recruitment or death of their members by the Houthi militia. Many people especially parents cannot follow their children for fear of detention. Amnesty International clarifies that Houthis guarantee monetary incentives in the range of $80 to $120 per child to the families whose children die in the frontline (n.p). The rebels also promise to print posters to show tribute to the boys that killed when contributing to the war. The act is a way of Houthi honoring families for their losses.
The report by the Secretary-General on the involvement of children in armed conflict gave astonishing details about the Yemeni child soldiers. Since the start of the war until April 2016, about 60% of the dead and injured children were victims of the actions of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition (Amnesty International n.p). Additionally, 20% of the dead and wounded children were victims of the Houthis misdeeds. HWR. Org reports that the UNICEF verified that the war caused the killing of over 900 children and injured over 1300 in 2015.
Gupta elucidates that the fighters are using children between 14 and 16 years to guard their turfs in the battle (n.p). Gupta says that it is almost normal to see children carrying handguns and rifles to police the Sanaa streets recently seized from the enemies (n.p). The Houthis have stationed the children at checkpoints along the cabinet and parliament entrances. Sadly, the children only $2 daily for the critical service in a scorching sun by day and cold vigil by night.
Gupta clarifies that contrary to the words that the Houthi rebels alone involve in the employment of children soldiers, the government forces and al-Qaeda also participate in the act (n.p). A clear situation occurred in 2011 when the Houthis had just started campaigns to dislodge the President, Ali Saleh Abdullah. The Yemeni Military and pro-government fighters employed children to assist in the war of northern-Houthi base. According to Gupta, the use of children soldiers began in 2004 during the Saad war (n.p). In those days, the army joined the armed groups and the tribes in enlisting children. In 2011, every person especially the tribes and the military participated in open recruitment children fighters.
Efforts to Address Child Soldiers
Under the International Human rights, the admission of children into war constitutes a crime against humanity. In some instances, particularly in Yemen, the children fighters have become war captives. The UN and concerned countries have been rebuking and attempting to discourage the use of child soldiers. In May 2016, there were hopes when the pro-government fighters and Houthi forces deliberated to exchange 50% of the prisoners in June before Ramadan. It is during the exchanges that some of the children got their freedom into the society. In 2014, the UN negotiated with the Yemeni government about the protection of children against recruitment into forces, but the efforts failed after the war escalated.
The use of children soldiers in local and international fights is not new to the globe. The use of child soldiers has been prevalent in the Congo region, South Sudan, and now the Middle East. The rebels are the groups that mostly rely on children for their military enhancements. In most cases, high levels of poverty increase the vulnerabilities of the children to such exploitations. In some cases, the recruitment is forceful through captivation from homes. In other cases, recruitment involves false indoctrinations that justify the reason that children should join battles. The United Nations has clear regulations that ban the participation of teenagers in armed wars. However, the act persists because of the difficulty of managing the militant groups. The war in Yemen began after efforts to resolve political disagreements that led to the resignation of the former President Abdullah Saleh. The problem started in 2014 and did not seem to be addressing anytime soon. In Yemen, many children are in battlefields. Unfortunately, all participants in the Yemeni violence are using children. As such, there is no one to defend the children. Sadly, the families cannot talk about the situations because of fear of unspecified punishments from the warring parties. Many children are dying and sustaining injuries. Some of the fighters mainly the Houthis promise parents of their slain child soldiers monthly incomes that can barely exceed $120 monthly and a gun. The situation in Yemen is terrible, but as the condition is other Arab countries, there does not appear to be a solution shortly.
Al-Karimi, Khalid. Poverty drives recruitment of child soldiers in Yemen. 2017. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
Amnesty International. Yemen: Huthi forces recruiting child soldiers for front-line combat. 2017. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
BBC News. Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom? 2017. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
Gatten, Emma. Child soldiers make up a third of Yemeni fighters, says Unicef. 2016. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
Gupta, Priyanka. The child soldiers of Yemen Lured by money and a sense of purpose, a growing number of young boys are being recruited by Yemen's warring factions. 2017. Web. 3 Arp. 2017.
Human Rights Watch. Yemen: Free Captive Children: Prisoner Exchange Being Negotiated. 2016. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
The Times of India. UN documents nearly 1,500 child soldiers in Yemen. 2017. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
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