Al Houthis Yemen
A boy sits at the site of a rally held by followers of the Al Houthi militia in August 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Yemeni human rights activist Samira Abdullah Al Houri revealed her suffering inside Al Houthi prisons, and the increasing cases of rape and forced marriages there.

Al Houri says the Iran-backed militia has resorted to force marriages, in which Yemeni women, whose husbands study or work abroad, are married against their will to Al Houthi men. The Houthis aim to increase births without lineage, raise these infants in orphanages and radicalise them.

“This way the Al Houthi group radicalise and recruit children even before they are born, a strategy to create a more vicious and notorious fighters,” Al Houri said.

The Houthi militia in Yemen have forcibly recruited 10,300 children in Yemen since 2014, according to a latest report that revealed the group have used schools and other educational facilities to lure minors to recruitment.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the SAM for Rights and Liberties said in a report released in February the Houthis use complex patterns to forcibly recruit children and put them in hostile areas under its control in Yemen.

Al Houri says she was kidnapped and taken to an unofficial, unknown location, and without any investigations, prosecution or court hearings. “I was sentenced to death on charges of communicating with the [Saudi-led Arab] coalition,” she said.

She added that her detention lasted more than three months in a secret prison on Taiz Street, in a place called Al Thaghata.

“I was tortured, threatened with execution and forced to record videos of confessions that I am a spy for the Arab coalition, and I am the one who gives the coordinates to them. I was forced to sign an affidavit to accept any orders or tasks they assign to me, whether they are immoral, political or military,” she says.

Al Houri says notorious Al Houthi leader Sultan Zaben, who was placed on UN Security Council sanctions list for torturing women, had supervised her torture during her detention.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor’s report released on February 12 to mark the “International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers”, said: “The Houthi group uses an education system that incites violence and teaches the group’s ideology through special lectures inside the official educational facilities to fill students with extremist ideas and encourage them to join the fight to support the group’s military actions.”

The report said that in the past three years, the Houthis have been running an open and compulsory campaign to recruit children. Specifically, the Houthis have opened 52 training camps for thousands of adolescents and children in Saada, Sanaa, Al Mahwit, Hodeidah, Tihama, Hajjah and Dhamar.

The Houthis have specifically targeted children 10 years old or above, according to the report.

The latest reports on child soldiers being recruited by the Houthis revealed that the Houthis force children into ideological programs first before sending them to military training camps to attend a one-month course. Houthi child soldiers are then sent to battlefronts to participate in direct clashes, laying mines and guarding military points.

Child recruitment is a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.