“In Yemen, Children Join Fight”
The Washington Post, May 12, 2015, p.A1
“Hundreds and possibly thousands of boys are fighting in Yemen’s conflict, according to rights groups and aid workers. Many are between the ages of 13 and 16, the groups say. Experts cite worsening poverty in the Arabian Peninsula country as a major reason children are joining armed groups. The child soldiers are found in nearly every faction battling in Yemen. According to some estimates, boys younger than 18 form nearly a third of the Houthi rebel force’s approximately 25,000 fighters. … Food and fuel have become scarce for many of Yemen’s 25 million residents because of the battles and an air and naval blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition, according to the United Nations and aid groups. The turmoil has forced most schools to shut down, which in turn has enlarged the pool of potential child recruits. … [T]he Houthis toppled [former president] Hadi’s U.S.-backed government in February. Their offensive is prompting anti-Houthi forces — including the largely Sunni tribes in the south and in the oil-rich province of Marib, which is east of Sanaa — to increasingly turn to child reinforcements to fight back, said Nadwa al-Dawsari, an expert on Yemen’s tribes who is affiliated with the Project on Middle East Democracy in Washington. … Yemen is a tribal society where manhood is often associated with an ability to use a firearm, but children historically have not been allowed to fight, she said.”
Quickie analysis: More than half of the Yemeni population is under 18. Whatever happens in Yemen, be it fighting, malnutrition, or the long-term closing of schools, will have reverberations for decades to come.