A Yemeni boy during a gathering of newly-recruited Houthi fighters in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Photo credit: MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Saudis Deny Recruiting Child Soldiers in Yemen War

Child SlaverySlavery In conflict

Saudi Arabia is hitting back at reports that it recruited child soldiers from Darfur in Sudan to fight in Yemen, instead accusing Houthi rebel fighters of using underage Yemeni fighters.

At the end of December, the New York Times wrote that Saudi Arabia was offering up to $10,000 to poor Sudanese families to send their children to fight in the war against the Iran-backed Houthis.

One Sudanese child soldier told the New York Times that “Families know that the only way their lives will change is if their sons join the war and bring them back money.”

Global News reports:

Sudanese fighters told the New York Times that children made up at least 20 per cent — in some cases, over 40 per cent — of their battalions in Yemen, where Sudan has dispatched thousands of troops to assist the Saudi-led alliance.

The fighters reportedly said they were effectively treated as “firewood” to shield Saudi and Emirati troops from casualties, with Saudi commanders ordering Sudanese units almost exclusively by remote control.

However, the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. said the New York Times story was lacking in evidence and relying on unsubstantiated claims.

“Saudi Arabia does not deploy children as fighters. Furthermore, the Kingdom examined the records of all military personnel that have been deployed through Saudi Arabia as part of military operations in Yemen and has determined that there are no underage personnel,” said the Saudi embassy.

The Saudis went on to say that “Unlike the uncorroborated allegations in the article, the Houthis’ forced recruitment of children is well documented by international organizations and human right organizations.”

Amnesty International, for one, has documented the recruitment of child soldiers by the Houthis.

The Saudis also claim to be rehabilitating child soldiers who fought for the Houthis. On Friday, the government-run Saudi Press Agency praised the government for launching “a number of initiatives to rehabilitate Yemeni children and return them to schools.”

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