In light of the growing phenomenon of child abductions and the escalation of violations against children in Houthi-controlled areas, local sources in Sanaa informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the movement has this week launched a new recruitment campaign based on luring children and young men to join the militia ranks, under the pretext of protecting them from the coronavirus.
The sources confirmed that the Houthi commanders in Sanaa and other governorates have initiated coordinated campaigns in neighbourhoods, communities and villages, to urge residents to hand their children over to recruitment camps as the best alleged method of protecting them from infection and avoiding sources of danger.
A parent and resident of the capital told Asharq Al-Awsat that since the first days of Eid Al-Fitr, the militia supervisors in the neighbourhoods of Sho'oub, Shumaila and Al-Safia have intensified their movements in the area, in an effort to persuade the residents to let them take their children.
The same source confirmed that: "After the recent recruiting campaigns, the Houthi militias did not invite children and youngsters to stay in their homes and protect themselves from the pandemic, but rather asked them to save themselves and quickly join the fighting fronts, which are safe and free from the coronavirus, away from crowded cities and areas, as the movement claims."
It is not known how many children and young men the Houthis have managed to recruit during its latest campaign. However, international sources and reports of the previous Yemeni government estimate that a third of Houthi fighters are children and adolescents.
Parents in the Houthi-controlled capital communicated that many children and youngsters are being lured by Houthis without the knowledge or consent of their families, while they are in the streets, mosques or markets.
Local sources in the governorates of Mahwit, Hajjah, Dhamar and Ibb earlier informed Asharq Al-Awsat that dozens of Yemeni children have recently disappeared, adding that the Houthi militias most likely lured those children to join the recruitment camps.
Citizens in the governorates of Ibb and Dhamar reported a few months ago that dozens of children under the age of 18 had disappeared.
Activists in the Hajjah and Mahwit governorates also spoke about similar incidents in their area.
Human rights sources in Sanaa revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the phenomenon of child abduction is widespread in the Houthi-controlled areas, especially in the capital and the governorates of Ibb, Amran, Hajjah, Mahwit and Dhamar.
The sources confirmed that the kidnappings have been taking place on a daily basis. Three to six children disappear daily, often between noon and sunset, leaving their homes and not returning.