A war with child soldiers

Nariman El-Mofty | Associated Press

There are hardly words left to say after reading the Associated Press’ investigation revealing that rebels in Yemen are going door to door to grab children to fight as soldiers.

Children. Soldiers. War.

What is it good for?

Underneath all of this is the belief on all sides — as in many wars — that they are engaged in doing the work that pleases a higher being.

A 13-year-old named Riyadh said half of the fighters he served with on the front lines in Yemen’s mountainous Sirwah district were children. Rebel officers ordered them to push forward during battles, even as coalition jets zoomed overhead, he said.

He said he pleaded with his commander to let the young fighters take cover during airstrikes: “Sir, the planes are bombing.”

The reply, he said, was always: “Followers of God, you must attack!”

Both sides in the war are using children, the AP says.

A 13-year-old boy named Saleh told the AP that Houthi militiamen stormed his family’s home in the northern district of Bani Matar on a Saturday morning and demanded he and his father come with them to the front lines. He said his father told them, “Not me and my son” and then tried to pull his rifle on them. “They dragged him away,” the boy recalled. “I heard the bullets, then my father collapsing dead.”

The AP says international relief agencies are not allowed to discuss the use of child soldiers for fear they wouldn’t be allowed to bring relief supplies to the region.

“This is a taboo,” one said.