Hundreds of children are engaged in heavy fighting between two tribes in Amran Governorate, northern Yemen, and a number of them have been killed or injured in the past three months, says the Seyaj Organisation for Childhood Protection, a local NGO.
It said almost half the combatants were under 18. "Forty percent of the victims are children aged 14-15," Ahmed al-Qurashi, head of the Seyaj Organisation, told IRIN.
The armed conflict between the al-Osaimat and Harf Sufian tribes began in November 2008.
Al-Qurashi said both tribes treated the boy fighters as men. “They are regarded as responsible men who are able to carry guns and fight.”
"At the same time, these adolescents feel they are grown-ups. And a large number of them are pushed into armed fighting, but end up as victims. We have pictures of them to prove that,” he said.
The inter-tribal fighting has left over 60 dead, according to a tribal leader in Amran who preferred anonymity.
Sheikh Nasser Abu Shawsa of the al-Osaimat tribe told IRIN 25 people had been killed and 68 injured from his tribe. He accused the Harf Sufian tribe of recruiting schoolchildren. "But here in al-Osaimat we do not recruit children," he said.
|Hundreds of children are fighting in Amran Governorate, northern Yemen|
Yemen is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, which "requires States to do everything they can to prevent individuals under the age of 18 from taking a direct part in hostilities."
But al-Qurashi said children were used by all tribes in armed conflict, adding: "Even army recruits are under-age."
Pressure to recruit children
Abdul-Rahman al-Marwani, chairman of the Dar al-Salaam Organisation to Combat Revenge and Violence, a local NGO, told IRIN as many as 500-600 children per year ended up killed or injured.
"Manhood is linked with bearing arms. A man would feel proud to see his son carrying a gun and shooting," he said, adding that the participation of children in armed conflict was regarded as normal.
He said there was pressure to recruit child soldiers when the number of adult fighters was insufficient, and it was also a way of inculcating tribal hatred at an early age. Almost half of Yemen’s 21 million people are under 15, according to the UN Development Programme.
According to Child Soldiers Global Report 2008, the Yemeni army used child soldiers against the al-Houthi-led Shia rebels in Saada Governorate in 2007.
“Children as young as 15 were allegedly given weapons by the armed forces and sent to the front with no training,” the report said, adding that under-age recruitment to the armed forces reportedly remained common, despite Yemeni law stipulating 18 as the minimum age for recruitment into the army.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions