Alsahaw Net- Ghamdan, a 12-year former child solider demonstrates how to use the Kalashnikov. He says he just returned from Qania fighting front of Al-Baida in central Yemen where he joined the Houthis-affiliated forces.
He confirms that his father opposed him join the militants. He was extremely excited to show his skill at disassembling his Kalashnikov, but unaware that this tool might take his life one day.
Mohamed Al-Janadi, another 13-year child solider share the same excitement as he shows a bracelet on his arm wrist with his name has been inscribed on the bangle. He believes that the bangle is precious and it his key to the paradise.
He said that he has been fighting for two years for the Houthis and that he killed and tortured humans. He seems unconcerned to live or die as his time with militants has brainwashed his childhood.
“They will print my photo with martyr description below and post it on the coffin and send me back to my family when I get killed,” said Al-Janadi.
These are just few cases of child soldiers who spoke to us. Thousands of child soldiers who are no more than ten years old have been recruited by the Houthis affiliated forces in different fighting fronts.
It is always the case of all armed groups who often recruit children because young men can be easily attracted to their ideological agendas.
Cases who spoke to us said that they risked their lives and joined the Houthis to obtain monthly payment or one Kalashnikov. But others say that they were forcibly recruited by abduction or exploitation.
The Houthi officials publicly say that they do not recruit children and that they bring back home any child that attempts to join them. Yet, the UN says that 2,721 children were military recruited.
Human rights groups believes that the number could be higher as larger number of families do not speak about the issue fearing the Houthis’ intimidation.
Some of the child soldiers we met said that they were abducted from schools and were forced to join the Houthis’ forces in return that the Houthis release one of his family members from detention.
“They force us to man security checkpoints on main roads of north and west Yemen. Ak-47 Kalashnikovs stretch from their slim shoulders,” Mutasim, a child soldier says.
He added other child soldiers are being sent to the frontlines as infantrymen.
Riyadh, 13-year child solider who took part in the Nehm fighting front, 40 Km east the capital Sana’a said that half of the fighters he worked with at the frontlines in the mountainous Nehm were children.
He added that Houthis officers ordered them advance forward during the fighting even the Saudi-led jet-fires were hovering over their heads.
“When I asked my commander to allow children hide during airstrikes he replied: You are Ansarullah and you must attack,” said Riyadh.
A school teacher who asked not to publish his name for security reasons has spoken about cases of child military recruitment in his area. The teacher who used to work in Bani Hashish District, east Sana’a, said that at least 14 pupils from his former school were recruited.
“They were all killed in the battlefield and their personal photos were placed on vacant chairs during the Houthis’ week of martyr in 2016,” the teacher said. The Houthis celebrate the week of martyr in February of every year.
“Most of 14 dead pupils were in the fifth and sixth grade. It is hurting because they were like my children. They [Houthis militants] took them from schools and brought them back in coffins,” an education official in the same area confirmed the cases and asked to remain unnamed in fear of punishment.