Freitag, 28. Oktober 2011

Yemen prepares for civil war

Intensive army recruitment feeds ongoing conflict
Yemen Times, October 27, 2011
by Nadia Al-Sakkaf & Mohammed bin Sallam

Estimates predict that between 15 and 20 percent of the men involved in Yemen’s armed combat are under 18. YT Archive photo

Despite recent news of a truce between the state security and splinter army, recruitment of new soldiers from both sides has not stopped. Thousands of new recruits, mostly driven by poverty and many of whom are children, are being prepared for a feared civil war.

Armed recruitment on both sides of the conflict has reached an unprecedented level this month with thousands of young men, many under 18, have been joining the ranks of both the official and the splinter army since April.

A source from within the defected First Armored Division said, on condition of anonymity, that at least five thousand young men had signed up during October alone.

Similarly, a source in the state’s Central Security said that in anticipation of a heavy armed conflict, President Saleh had issued orders on October 18 to initiate the recruitment of thousands of Yemenis. The source said that at least 12,000 new soldiers needed to be recruited before the end of the month. The new soldiers will be recruited mostly from the governorates and deployed both in Sana’a and conflict areas elsewhere.

On Tuesday young unemployed men lined up outside the Central Security offices in Ibb city hoping to be enlisted as part of the 2,000 sliders needed to be recruited from that area. A local from Ibb said that Brigade Rashad Mutahar Al-Masri, Central Security Commander and son of Interior Minister Mutahar Al-Masri had ignored a number of recruitment requirements so as to reach his target as soon as possible.

Currently, most state army units are in Sana’a governorate, with strong focus on the three Republican Guard camps in the Arahab district on the outskirts of the city where regular battles are fought with the Salafi tribes.

The second concentrated presence is in Taiz, where the armed opposition is most active. Sources from the city’s armed opposition said that the five thousand new recruits of Al-Ahmar’s division are set to back up the armed conflict in Taiz. “It is supposed to be the Benghazi of Yemen. From there we will take over Sana’a,” said the source.

Recruits on both sides receive minimal training before they are sent off to the battle grounds. Bakeel Mohammed, a fresh graduate from university and one of the new recruits in the splinter army, said they had a six-day-in-camp training before given a rifle and asked to join the fight. “But I am not doing this for the money but because I am tired of this regime and believe that a peaceful way for ending it is no longer possible,” he said.

“He suddenly disappeared from home after telling his sisters that he is joining the defected army,” said his panicked mother. “This is my son whom I raised and nurtured, how can he throw himself into the danger just like that?”

Many of the new recruits in the splinter army have had close association with either the Eman University headed by Abdulmajid Al-Zindani, an alleged AQAP member.

“My son was doing his masters degree at the Eman University in Sana’a when I heard the news that he was killed by the state army,” said the father of Mahdi Abdulghani, who joined the ranks of the splinter army this month and died in armed conflict on October 8. “He was supposed to graduate and have a life, not die for an unclear battle. Even then, the army that recruited him did not take the effort to provide for his burial and funeral service. Is that how they reward their men?” questioned Abdulghani’s father.

Commenting on the increased recruitment by the opposition forces, the army’s official media as well as the website of the Ministry of Defense warned that it was illegal and that any men recruited by anti-government forces would not be acknowledged by the state and should not consider themselves officially enrolled.

Child soldiers

Several international organizations highlighted their concern that many of new recruits are children. In an April report this year, Human Rights Watch stated that it had encountered dozens of armed soldiers who appeared to be younger than 18 in Sana’a since unrest began in February.

“On April 12, Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 soldiers in Sana’a who gave their ages as 14, 15, and 16, and said they had been serving in the army for one to two years,” said the report.

The same report stated that six officers from the First Armored Division told Human Rights Watch that the unit allowed the recruitment of 15-year-olds and occasionally makes "exceptions" by recruiting younger children.

Most of the state’s newly recruited youth within Sana’a were allocated to the various checkpoints within the city and at its entrance points.

“At the check point a very young man – I would not give him more than 16 years – stopped me very arrogantly and checked my car in an unprofessional manner,” said Fathi Abdu, a resident in Sana’a. “He didn’t seem to know what he was doing, but was enjoying the power he had to stop people and make them wait.”

Ali al-Sayyaghi, a recruitment officer at the Ministry of Defense, told IRIN, the UN’s news agency, that some new recruits looked younger than the date of birth on their ID cards, but said the ID card was “the only reliable document for determining the age of an applicant".

Moreover, the pro-government tribal militia and the Houthi rebellion in the north were included in the UN’s 2011 list of shame report. Each year the Secretary-General lists those parties to conflict who recruit and use, kill and maim or commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children in conflict.

The UN listing stated that 15 percent of the pro-government militia were children compared to 20 percent of the Houthi rebels. While the conflict in Sa’ada, north of Yemen, between the Houthis and the state ended in 2009, the composition of both armies remains the same.

Despite the UN highlighting the risk of child soldiers being used in Yemen, the White House issued a memorandum allowing military funding to Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chad last month – all of which are on the UN’s list of shame for recruiting child-soldiers.
This article was originally published here.

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