Yemenis shun Houthi summer camps amid recruitment fears

By Abu Bakr al-Yamani in Sanaa

A Houthi fighter carries a rifle during a gathering in Sanaa to mobilise more fighters to battlefronts on February 2nd, 2017. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

A Houthi fighter carries a rifle during a gathering in Sanaa to mobilise more fighters to battlefronts on February 2nd, 2017. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Yemeni parents in areas controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) tell Al-Mashareq they are keeping their children out of summer camps for fear the militia will attempt to recruit them into its ranks.

Summer camps opened their doors in late July at a number of schools and mosques in Sanaa and other areas controlled by the Houthis.

The Houthis have printed curricula that centre on sectarian mobilisation, based on the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist), which calls for allegiance to al-Wali al-Faqih -- Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

The militia's rallying cry also has been infused into the camps' literature.

Summer camps are not attracting the same numbers as they have done in previous years, and "parents are fearful the Houthis would lure and recruit the students", said Ahmad Jamil, who is in charge of activities at a Sanaa school.

Most children who attend camp are below the age of nine, he told Al-Mashareq.

The Houthis have altered the curricula used in these camps to promote their own doctrine and glorify Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) and al-Sarkha -- the Houthis' rallying cry, he said.

Ahmed Muthanna, a parent from Sanaa, told Al-Mashareq he does not like "the Houthis’ tampering with education in general and summer camps in particular".

The curricula is "now geared toward death and the culture of death", he said, and aims to serve the Houthis and Iran "rather than the national interest".

Ideological mobilisation

"The training activities being held for children under the banner of summer camps are in fact a cultural and ideological mobilisation process," said Abdulsalam Mohammed, head of the Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies.

The children who attend these summer camps may well be receiving training on the use of weapons, he told Al-Mashareq, based on various leaked photos.

The camps operate "according to a sectarian ideology imported from Iran", he said, noting that the curricula in use fuels sectarianism.

The Houthi-run summer camps serve as breeding grounds for fighters and ideological extremists who will fuel future cycles of violence, even if the civil war comes to an end, political researcher Yassin al-Tamimi told Al-Mashareq.

"These types of closed summer camps will remain one of the tools of destruction used to undermine awareness of the importance of citizenship, collective belonging to the homeland, and adhering to the values of the Republic," he said.

Their destructive impact will not cease until they are shut down and put under a programme overseen by state institutions that is agreed upon by all, and not those currently controlled by the Houthis, he said.

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