Saudi Arabia Denies Alleged Use of Child Soldiers in Yemen
The Saudi Arabian government has strongly objected to the allegations made in the article titled “On the Front Line of the Saudi War in Yemen? Child Soldiers from Darfur”, that was published by the New York Times on December 28. The Embassy states that the story is false and seriously flawed by lack of evidence and several 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.
The examination also determined that American-made weapons were never been distributed to personnel participating from Sudan as part of the Coalition’s operations, as alleged by The New York Times article.
As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Kingdom has been trying for more than a year to bring attention to the fact that the Houthi militia in Yemen has, without denial, used children as fighters. In fact, Saudi Arabia has taken steps to try to protect children from being used by the Houthi militia as soldiers, including establishing a rehabilitation center in Yemen to address the needs of children who were pressed into fighting for the Iran-backed Houthis and is helping them return to normal lives.
Unlike the uncorroborated allegations in the article, the Houthis’ forced recruitment of children is well documented by international organizations and human right organizations.
Saudi Arabia takes strong issue with the charge that it is relying on soldiers from other nations –regardless of their age – to fight on its behalf. The claim dishonors the service of the thousands of brave members of the Saudi armed forces, many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice in defending their nation.
The Houthi militia, backed by Iran, initiated the conflict in Yemen through an attempted overthrow of the legitimately elected government in 2015 and the armed occupation of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa. Since that time, the Houthis have engaged in violent guerrilla warfare, often in violation of international law. This has included not only the recruitment of child soldiers, but also the use of civilians as human shields, shelling of civilian targets, attacks on shipping lanes, as well as the laying hundreds of thousands of land mines.
In addition, scores of Saudi civilians have died or been injured during the conflict due to thousands of unguided mortars that the Houthi militia have fired into Saudi Arabia. If there is a party to the Yemen conflict that has become infamous for routinely exploiting child soldiers, it is the Houthi militia.