Children are fighting on both sides of Yemen’s five-year-old war, a human rights group said on Tuesday as it urged Western powers to end arms sales to countries involved in the conflict.
“This war is [destroying] our future and destroying our children,” the president of NGO Mwatana for Human Rights, Radhya Almutawakel, told a Paris news conference.
“You will see children carrying weapons; that was not the case before 2014,” Almutawakel said, unveiling the group’s report titled “Withering Life: The Human Rights Situation in Yemen 2018”.
The report by the Sanaa-based group said more than 1,000 children including girls were “recruited or used for military purposes in 2018” including 72 per cent by the Houthi rebels.
“Many families can’t even control their children from not going to fight,” said Almutawakel.
More than 2,000 schools have been destroyed, Almutawakel said. “In many, many neighbourhoods you will see a lot of pictures of children who have been taken to the frontlines and come back home as dead bodies,” she added.
She said children are enlisted “not only because of the money but because of this emotional environment… They say that their friends have been killed [so] the only response is to go to the front lines”.
Yemen was plunged into war in 2014 when the Houthis launched a military campaign, taking over swathes of territory and driving the government from the capital Sanaa.
The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, intervened the following year sparking what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.