The assassination of children in Yemen,Ma'rib .Iman Hanna
ـ Exclusive stories from Houthi camps recruitment
20 children tell us their stories in Houthi camps recruitment
ـChild Abdul Hameed: AlـHouthi used to say that the legitimate government is ISIS
Ma'rib,Yemen – 12 April 2019: In Yemen, there are numerous violations of children's rights. The violations are displacement, kidnapping, murder, and forced recruitment into the ranks of the militias in clear violation of all conventions, treaties and laws on child protection and human rights.
When the pressure increased on Al-Houthi, after refusal of the Yemenis to comply with their threats to join their ranks, the Houthis resorted to the meanest methods. They forcibly abducted children from the streets, schools and houses and forced them to take up arms and join the ranks of the militia. Hence families voluntarily chose displacement to protect their children from the unknown fate on the front lines.
According to statistics from the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights, the number of children recruited by the Houthis is 18,000 children between march 2015 and December 2018.
We visited the recruited children rehabilitation center in Ma'rib. There, we found children who returned from different battle fronts in Yemeni governorates.
Although they come from different areas, but the tragedy connects them; the tragedy of being a child and instead of wearing the school uniform, you wear the army combat uniform; instead of carrying a pen and a bag, you carry a weapon that is often heavier than your malnourished or sometimes starving body.
inside the center, we also met with more than 20 children, everyone has a different story, we also met with training and rehabilitation officials to know the difficulties they face in rebuilding what was destroyed in the minds and spirits of these children. Houthi was not only exploiting them on the fronts but sought to fill their minds with Jahadi thought and sectarian ideology and tried to teach them misinterpretations of the Koranic verses which are taught in Iran. in addition to the psychological effects of carrying arms.
Saif: They forcibly took me from the market
Among dozens of his colleagues, who are connected by one fate, we found Saif sitting quietly, filled with fear to even talk. Saif Abdullah, 10 years, barely answered our questions, saying, “I am from Omran governorate, and was fighting on the front with the Houthis”. He added in his Bedouin dialect how he joined the ranks of the Houthis, "One day I was buying something from the market and the Houthis came and took me by force, and I started fighting with them.”
Saqr: They made stay on the front for two months
Another child talked to us; his name is Sakr Moteab, 11yearـold, said, “They took us to the front-line. We were giving their soldiers water and bread, and we stayed where we didn’t see anybody except them. they gave us weapons and I fought with them in the battle of Al-Adaysat, as for his observations of the war , he said ”we were terrified while we see the corpses, and I saw my colleagues were dead holding their arms”.
Saqr continued:”then we went to a place they have in Sana’a where we read and studied the books they brought. A teacher comes to explain the books, and in the next day, he checks who memorized the lesson. Anyone who doesn’t memorize is taken to solitary confinement.”.”
and the food that they were eating ,he said, ”we were eating bitter bread and their food residues”.
He talked about his observations during that period, saying, “We used to see pictures of Khomeini alongside the pictures of Abdul-Malek al-Houthi on the walls of the rooms there. Every day they organize a hearing for a lecture from the lectures of Abdul-Malek al-Houthi. They used to gather all in a room called the hearing room and listen.”
Nasser: They used to give us pills every day
The 13-year-old Nasser Mohammed revealed to us more secrets of the Houthi camps, he said: "They took me from school with 7 colleagues. They told us that they will take us to a training course. they took us to a dark place it was like a small underground basement in Sana’a. "They ordered us to glorify Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, and to say our master Abdul Maleik al-Houthi; otherwise, they would torture us”. And about the religious lessons that they learned there, he said, "They taught us to insult the prophet's companions and told us that the Holy Quran was revealed to Ali not to Muhammad. Also, my cousin was tortured because he refused to keep these teachings."
Nasser continued: “They trained us to use arms in the burning sun, on the mountain. Some of us were raped, including one of my friends. They gave us white pills every day, and ordered us to swallow them to give us strength. Latter we knew it were contraceptive pills, so that when we are wounded we don’t bleed. I used to hide them, and tell the Houthis that I swallowed it”. He added: “We participated in the battle of Al-Mocha. I saw my colleagues dead in front of me, and I fled away and came here.”
Ahmed Mohammed: They killed my brother
Ahmed Mohammed,11 year-old, told us, “My brother, Osama was killed on the front", and the Houthis used us instead of the animals to carry the bread and supplies to their fronts on the mountains. We had to obey the orders accurately no matter how tiring they are or how long they would take. One day I went to bring them food from the market, and I ran away”. He added: “They were giving us keys to attach to our hands, so when we die on the front line we go to Paradise as they told us”.
The child Naji Nasser, 14 yearـold, says, “My family and I were displaced from Sana’a to Al-Mocha. One day, after I left school while I was walking on the road, the Houthis came and carried me and put me over a car with an armed crew. No one could save me, for fear of the Houthis.”
He added, “They were giving us pills that made us dizzy; we couldn’t refuse, or they would punish us.”
Yehia: They made us eat qat
Among tragedies of children that story which was told by child Yeahia Saleh, 12 yearـold, who said, “They took us from our homes and we were training to use arms. They forced us to eat qat and swallow unknown pills, that made us dizzy and then they forced us to take off our clothes.”
Yehia continued, “One of my colleagues told them call his father ,so They tortured him by electrocution and flogged him in front of us, after two days he died . They told us, "no one thinks of his family again. “You are conscripts in a sacred mission; there is no father or mother, and no one would call his family. You are here for jihad, so you will win the key to paradise and take it from your master Abdul Malek al-Houthi.”
Abdul Hameed: We were raped
Abdul Hameed al-Sayed, 14 yearـold, told us the details of his story, “They took me from my house, and my father tried to prevent them, but they hit him. I was the oldest son; I went with them to Al-Makdara area. I fought in the battle of front Serwah. We used to see our colleagues lying on the ground wounded (sometimes without bleeding) and no one is trying to save them, However there was no blood!. We were forbidden to approach any corpse; we were forced to continue our work.”
He added, “I have been raped and my colleagues also and no one can open his mouth. We sat in the desert for long hours as we were trained to use weapons in the heat of the burning desert without drinking water.”
He added, “They say that Abdul-Malek al-Houthi is a prophet and that the Quran was delivered to him and not to Prophet Mohammed. They used to say that the legitimate government is ISIS.”
Abdul Hameed spent a year and a half with the Houthis, then he ran away at night with his colleague.
Muhammad, 14 yearـold, said, “I was taken from the market forcibly, and since then I didn’t see my family. They put me in a small room where there were many other little children. they were crying, then they gave me army combat uniform and told me, you will fight and will win paradise, Abdul Malek al-Houthi will take you to paradise through Jihad. Then they gave me books and told me to read them carefully, and a teacher would explain what I can’t understand. But I didn’t read then everyday they asked me and threatened to beat and torture me if I didn’t read the books, so I started reading.”
The challenges of children's rehabilitation
Nathra Al-Omari, the educational supervisor in the children rehabilitation center, began by clarifying that there are 4 classes who graduated with a total of 81 children, between the ages of 8 and 14 year ـ old; they have been rehabilitated psychologically and educationally, and they enrolled in school. these children come from different governorates such as, Marib, Al-Jawf, Taiz and Omran.
She added that, the problem is that some of them are clinging to their ideas and reforming those ideas needs much time,and a few of them try to escape and return to the Houthis again because "they are brainwashed”.
Nathra Al-Omari said, "We have discovered that some of these children have been raped and others have taken drugs”.
"Rehabilitation is carried out on several axes, including the psychological, educational, social and cultural aspects, as well as the religious aspects, because these children were indoctrinated with Jihadi thoughts. They were taught and convinced that fighting is Jihad that will take them to paradise. They were also taught rituals contrary to the Sunni doctrine in prayer, like which Shiites in Iran practice . We found also keys with them and when asked, they said, "these are the keys to Paradise”.
She continued that, these children have been indoctrinated with erroneous interpretations of the Quranic verses, and to address this they use education experts and clerics
Sulaiman Al-Wafi, coordinator of the rehabilitation project for conscripts, told us that the center collaborates with specialists to prepare rehabilitation and psychological courses. They are also integrated into various activities and collective games to improve their aggressive behavior. In the center children also learn sports and drawing.
He continued, "We also make sure that families are aware of the seriousness of the recruitment and how to deal with the child in the rehabilitation stage so that there is no setback, and we follow them periodically.”
The children are fuel for the war
Dr. Arafat Al-Humair, head of Rasd organization for monitoring human rights violations, said, "The children of Yemen have become fuel for the war, and the Houthi exploits them as a cheap tool in wars. Hundreds of them have been killed and others have been permanently disabled”. He said that Houthi's methods of recruiting from Yemen are multiple, including conducting mandatory recruitment campaigns, abducting children and youth forcibly and sending them to the fronts. Some are seduced by money, and Houthis also use mosques to attract them by promoting the idea that fighting will lead them to Paradise. They also use tribal elders in the collection of children to recruit them, and many of the families of these children are afraid to speak out and about their children are recruited for fear of retaliation."
Al-Humair added that, the Houthi exploits UNICEF donation for schools in the areas that under Houthis control, that they use the donation to implement their strategy and change the curricula to promote Jihadi ideas which incite them to fight. He noted that UNICEF then apologized for that, but after the Houthi curricula reached every student and it became difficult to control. He accused the international organizations of tolerant with the Houthis and represent a cover for them, which is an “incomprehensible attitude."
Samah Hadeed of Amnesty International Regional Office, considerd that abducting children and forcing them to take up arms and putting them on the lines of fire is frightening. She adds ,” those children lose their innocence and their rights, which are inherent in all countries of the world”.
drugs subject children to death
Eyewitnesses assured that children in Houthi camps had birth control pills along with other types of drugs in the battlefield. That was confirmed by, Mohamed Ali, one of the soldiers in el Khokha battle. He said that he was fighting some of those children who were forced by Houthito lead the front lines of the battle in Hudayda and Khokha. He confirmed that he saw birth control pills with them. Once, one of these young soldiers died after being shot, and surprisingly, he didn’t bleed, and different kinds of drugs were found with him. Besides, a battalion Commander in Serwah battle said “ I was a Battalion Commander in one of serwah’s battles, and I was shocked to see that a lot of Houthi’s soldiers were only kids who do not exceed 13 year old. He added “In the battle, we saw a lot of scattered pills on the ground in the battlefield which fell from the dead and injured children during the battle. There were also keys hanged on their neck.
Dr. Eidaros al-Missiri, head of the department of injured and medical evacuation affairs in Aden, confirmed that the drugs which are used for recruited children endangers their lives. Several types of drugs were found in the possession of those children, either in the houses, the battlefields, or in their clothes. Some of the drugs are psychotropic drugs, growth hormones, sex hormones and Contraceptive pills, which are used to stop bleeding. Those drugs have serious complications that may lead to death.
They also provide those young fighters with different kinds of medicines to stop the feeling of hunger for several days. Which also has very dangerous side effects on their health. Besides, different types of drugs were found; they affect the nervous system in a way that makes the user rambunctious, unconscious and in a state of hysterical madness under the influence of these pills.
Dr. Eidaros added, “We saw this in reality after capturing the Houthi fighters, as their condition differed greatly after the impact of the drugs was gone. They confessed that they were under the influence of the medicines which they took forcibly by the order of their leaders.”
Psychological rehabilitation for children
The stories of children who are psychologically affected by war reveal how much pain and panic Yemeni children suffer because of the war. Among these children is 12-year-old Abd El-Elah.
When we approached him we found him trying to hide a disability in his right hand, which was amputated from the wrist, because of the explosion of a toy-shaped device that had been placed in his yard of house. However, we knew that, despite of the feeling of embarrassment when somebody sees his disability, he is trying to overcome it by his continues trials to write using his left hand.
Abd El-Elah said, "I thought that inside the carton was a toy and I wanted to see it, but it exploded,” continuing, “I learn to eat and write with my with my left hand but I am not able to do this yet.”
Abd El-Elah’s father, Abdel Wasea, told us more details about this story, “I was sleeping in my room, while my sons were playing in the house’s yard. I was shocked by the sound of a loud explosion and the children screaming. I went down, and I found Abd El-Elah wounded. I carried him to the only hospital in the city, But the accident affected him psychologically till now, so I looked for a rehabilitation center for war-affected children in the area and they enrolled in the center in Marib.
How did the war affect education of children?
Yemeni Minister of Education: Houthis seek to spread jihadist thought
Countries will not develop without education..About the effects of the war on the educational life in Yemen ,the Yemeni Minister of Education Dr. Abdullah Al-Lammas asurredـ During our interview with himـ that the education was one of the most affected sectors in Yemen by the war, that During the period from December 2014 to December 2017, a number of 1406 educational institutions were destroyed, according to ministry of education statisticsـ including 238 cases of kidney destruction. And a number of 2100 educational institutions were destroyed Since the beginning of the coup in September 2014 till march 2019.( according to a monitoring coalition report on human rights violations).
He added, Some of schools were hitting with artillery, and others were turning into weapons stores or military barracks. Some were allocated to shelter the displaced in Taiz, Baida, Marib and Aden. Also The educational process has also been affected by the displacement of educational staff and students after the war, so we worked at full capacity to ensure that the Yemeni student would not lose a school year.
He added,” We implemented training programs to address the negative psychological effects of the war and the treatment of psychological cases affected among teachers and students.
He added ,as for the current educational situation in Yemen, we are still facing difficulties, for example printing school books because of the lack of paper ,also we have 112,000 displaced students without official documents. and we have difficulties for printing school books, Because of the lack of paper, the government supported us with 400 million riyals to make a tender for the purchase of paper, but it did not take long, so the students spent the second half of the current academic year without books. There is also a crisis of overcrowded classrooms. The number of students is 90 to 120 students instead of 45 to 50 before the war. Also, school equipments are missing a lot, and about two-thirds of students sit on the ground due to the lack of seats. There is also the problem of employment in educational sector which has been suspended.
He explained, As for Sana'a, it has been suffered. He added, Unfortunately, our relationship was cut with the educational institutions in Sana'a, but in general the educational process in the areas still under the control of Houthi has been stopped and depends on the efforts of the people, that Houthi imposed on the students from the first row to the sixth grade 600 riyals per month and the seventh grade to the ninth 800 riyals and 1500 SAR for secondary level , and there are 70 thousand teachers who have not been paid.
As for curriculums, He said ” Houthi has started a plan to change curriculum to teach students Jihadist ideology and violence, specially for primary stage . so we have set up committees to study and examine the curriculums. Hence, we stopped receiving books from Sana'a, despite 60% of the books are printed in Sana'a because it has the main printing press. Therefore, we established Press in Aden and Mukalla ”.
He said,about the role of international organizations in supporting the educational process in Sana'a,”There is a big problem. The presence of the headquarters of these organizations in Sana'a makes their decisions influenced by pressures exerted by Houthi. We called on these organizations to open their main offices in Aden, because there are now branch offices that do not have the decision-making power”.
This report is a part of a series of investigative report ,”Yemen: War Atrocities in the Land of Fear”A 30 ـ Day, by Iman Hanna .Hanna has taken a 30-day trip to monitor the suffering of the people during the war .