Iran-backed Houthis recruited teenage girls in Yemen, says new UN report

Children 'immeasurably damaged through recruitment, abuse and deprivation', eminent experts say

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020 file photo, tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels raise their weapons as they chant slogans during a gathering against the agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in Sanaa, Yemen. U.N.-backed experts have found evidence that rebels in Yemen recruited nearly three dozen teenage girls as spies, medics, guards and members of an all-female force. Some are said to be survivors of sexual violence. The findings were released Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in the third and latest report by a “group of eminent experts” commissioned by the Human Rights Council to investigate alleged rights violations by all sides in Yemen's war since September 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

The Houthi rebels in Yemen recruited 34 teenage girls – some said to be survivors of sexual violence – as spies, medics, guards and members of an all-female force, a report by UN-backed experts said on Wednesday.

The findings came in the third and latest report by the group of eminent experts on Yemen, commissioned by the Human Rights Council to investigate rights abuses in the war.

The conflict has resulted in what the UN calls the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis.

The report, based on more than 400 accounts and focusing mainly on the period between July 2019 and June 2020, showed how a generation of Yemeni children have been “immeasurably damaged through child recruitment, abuse, and deprivation of their most basic human rights, including education”.

The group said the Iran-backed Houthi rebels recruited boys as young as 7 from schools, poor urban areas and detention centres through abduction, recruitment by peers, indoctrination and promises of money.

“The group also received credible reports regarding Houthi recruitment of 34 girls, aged between 13 and 17, from June 2015 through June 2020 for use as spies, recruiters of other children, guards, medics, and members of the Zainabiyat,” the report said.

The Zainabiyat is the female force created by the rebels.

epa08635644 Pro-Houthi Shiite soldiers keep watch as pro-Houthi Shiite Yemenis attend Ashura Day procession in Sana'a, Yemen, 30 August 2020. Shiite Muslims are observing the holy month of Muharram, the climax of which is the Ashura festival that commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the Iraqi city of Karbala in the seventh century.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

“Twelve of these girls allegedly survived sexual violence and/or a forced and early marriage directly linked to their recruitment,” the report said. 

The report will be considered by the Human Rights Council after its autumn session begins on Monday.

“Yemen remains a tortured land, with its people ravaged in ways that should shock the conscience of humanity,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairman of the expert panel.

“The international community has a responsibility to put an end to this pandemic of impunity, and should not turn a blind eye to the gross violations that have been committed in Yemen.”

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