Yemeni army accused of recruiting child soldiers
“The situation is beyond control and there are thousands of Yemeni children in the army, which is a breach of all international conventions,” said Ahmed Al-Qurashi the director of the organization at a press conference on Wednesday. “This happened because we have been silent for too long.”
Responding to similar reports, the Ministry of Defense recently announced that it would immediately release all underage soldiers from its ranks. However, SEYAJ has demanded an investigation into the recruitment process stating that it has evidence of the names and cases of remaining child soldiers.
The organization has also launched an awareness campaign highlighting the problem of child soldier recruitment through mass communication and events.
“I found that I am not good in school and instead of staying useless at home I decided to join the army,” said Abdu Al-Abbal who has been in the army since he was 17 years old. “When I joined I found that there were many my age and even younger than me but we all got the same training and treatment.”
Although he understands the risks of joining the army he is happy with his position and says that his family approves as well. “The army gives us shields and training and they give us food and blankets – I feel safe and content. I even get my daily qat from the army,” added Al-Abbal.
One of the main problems of identifying child soldiers is the lack of, or counterfeit, ID cards. Marwan Al-Emad, who clearly looks younger than the 19 years he claims to be, said that he joined the opposition army protecting the revolution’s Change Square in Sana’a.
“Three of my seven siblings are in the division. My three brothers and I believe that we made the right decision. I feel like a man and that I can defend myself or my family when needed,” he said. However, he admitted that the minimal salary of a soldier, which does not exceed USD 150, does not go far. But he hopes that once the revolution is successful there will be more respect and care for the soldiers.
The recruitment process on either side of the conflict is far from flawless and according to Major Hassan Sabra, Central Security VIP protection officer, there are measures that can be taken without completely eliminating child soldiers.
“However, the economic conditions of the country have forced some much younger boys to want to join the army and we do receive applicants as young as 13 years old. We train them and equip them and when an armed conflict occurs we keep them in the rear lines for their protection,” he said.