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Yemeni children as young as seven being recruited by KSA to kill or be killed

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
November 22, 2020, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman addressing a remote press conference at the G20 summit, in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)

Already a poor country, Yemen goes through hell every day; poverty has been exasperated by drought, famine, disease, embargo and war. The Saudi-led campaign has opened a Pandora’s Box for the Yemeni people, including children.

A Yemeni child in red identifies himself on a hill, facing his enemy on the other hill. Blood, bombs, bullets and bodies; these are two drawings by former child soldiers recruited by the Saudi-led coalition, which show what’s going on inside their minds. It clearly shows that their childhood has been stolen.  But they are not alone.

In 2019, UNICEF reported that there are more than 2,700 cases of children enlisted in combat in Yemen pointing out that “this could just be a tip of the iceberg.”

Exclusive footage from Al Jazeera shows that these children are being recruited to defend the Saudi border, as if billions of dollars worth of purchased arms and military equipment are not enough for this purpose.

"We were told we would be working in a kitchen."

One of these child soldiers is Ahmad al-Naqib - from a village near Taiz - who left home when he was 15-year-old.  He had been promised to get regular paycheck and a job in the kitchens of Yemeni military units on Saudi soil. 

“We went because we were told we would be working in a kitchen and making 3,000 Saudi riyals ($800)… so we believed them and got on the bus.”

They know about the people that they are recruiting, people they are promising, what seems to be large amounts of money and not delivering those large amounts of money, sometimes tricking them into being, thinking they're going to be working as kitchen hands or in some cases and then being pushed into the front line with weapons, so I'm sure that they know about it and then I think it does reflect the fact that the Saudis have very little respect for people in their own system at the bottom of the heap, so to speak.

Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies

Investigators have identified a military camp in al-Buqa', near the Saudi border, where the child recruits are being trained.

The recruitment process is facilitated by human traffickers and the recruits are given identification cards before crossing into Saudi Arabia and being placed into a military camp. 

Use of children in conflicts war crime

It is considered a war crime, generally, because children, that is to say those under 18, are not considered capable of giving an informed consent to take on the responsibility of joining a military and being under orders to carry out, what might be serious criminal activity, remember that soldiers, since the Second World War, are regarded to have their own capacity to reject orders which which require them to carry out crime so there is a there is a type of adult conscience and their capacity to, on the one hand, take on responsibility, on the other hand, to follow to disobey orders which are criminal orders. And so, children are not capable of that they've taken advantage of. And the trickery I mentioned before is something that also children are very susceptible to so there's less chance of children rejecting those sorts of orders or standing up and resisting what they're being asked to do. So that's why there's this general consensus around the world that children should not be recruited into, particularly going into situations where they are engaged in conflicts that they don't understand.

Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies

According to Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization SAM, many Yemenis are entering the kingdom under the pretext of receiving emergency medical treatment only to be sent to the Yemen-Saudi border to fight for Riyadh.

"The Saudi-led coalition is recruiting boys from schools, poor urban areas and detention centers, inducing them to fight with a combination of bribes, indoctrination and coercion."

The Times

But the Saudi-led coalition does not recruit only Yemeni children. In late 2018, Riyadh came under fire for recruiting Sudanese children to fight on its behalf in Yemen.  Tens of thousands of desperate survivors of the conflict in Darfur, many of them children, are now fighting in Yemen.

Most of them belong to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, a tribal militia previously known as the Janjaweed.

Life is cheap

These children are reportedly being paid in Saudi riyals, the equivalent of about $480 a month for a 14-year-old novice. They receive an additional $185 to $285 for any month they saw combat.

Their payments were deposited directly into the Faisal Islamic Bank of Sudan, partly owned by Saudis.

According to The Times, Sudanese soldiers who fought in Yemen said that between 20% and 40% of their units were made up of children.

I think we need to understand what the Saudis represent in the region, it’s very important that the Saudis are there, as an arm of the old colonial regime; the British regime initially and now run by the North Americans that they are a proxy for, effectively a barrier between the British and the Americans being held accountable for their responsibilities for the terrible Dirty War and the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, that really these young people that are being recruited by the Saudis are effectively masking the responsibility of the NATO powers that are sending so many arms and weapons to perpetuate this sort of war.

And I don't think we can understand that unless we understand the role of the Saudis and the fact that they are only there to carry out the orders of these big powers from outside trying to manipulate events within the region.

So I think that the role of Al Saud, generally the family, needs to be understood to understand why there are so many appalling acts going on, including the use of child soldiers to perpetuate this dirty war against Yemen.

Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies

A dirty game has been in play since the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen. With billions of dollars in their pockets, the Saudi-led gang is still trying to outsource the war. They want to keep the cost of the war at the lowest possible level. So they are using child mercenaries from poor backgrounds in Yemen or Sudan; those whose lives are cheaper than the ones in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

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