Houthis open summer camps despite COVID-19 spread

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


A Yemeni boy poses with a Kalashnikov assault rifle during a gathering of newly-recruited Houthi fighters in the capital Sanaa, to mobilise more fighters to the battlefronts in the war against pro-government forces in several Yemeni cities, on July 16th, 2017. [Mohammed Huwais/FP]

The Iran-backed Houthi (Ansarallah) militia is opening summer camps in areas under its control as a way to recruit new fighters, Yemeni observers say, describing it as a crime against children and society.

The Houthis in mid-June announced the opening of summer camps in Ibb, Raymah, Hajjah and Sanaa provinces -- despite the fact that schools are closed as part of social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Local Houthi officials visited some of these provinces to check on the performance of the summer camps, and invited parents to send their children to the camps "to promote national unity to confront aggression states".

The Houthis' Mobilisation Committees, whose goal is to support the front with money, men and weapons, recently met in Dhi al-Safal, al-Shaar, al-Sabra and al-Makhader districts of Ibb province.

The meetings approved to dispatch committee members, each in their own district, to oversee the work of the summer camps and help mobilise more people to the front.

Brainwashing the youth

The opening of summer camps contradicts the Houthis' stated approach of social distancing and measures taken to shut down schools under the pretext of coping with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, observers say.

The Houthis have opened multiple camps despite the shutdown of regular schools to students, Yemeni political analyst Adel al-Shujaa told Al-Mashareq.

The Houthi militia is focusing on Hajjah and Ibb "since these are the provinces that feed the front with the most fighters, especially school students", he said.

These summer camps "teach and produce ignorance", he said.

They "seek to brainwash young people's minds and turn them into cannon fodder for their destructive war, and to build up ignorance in our society and erase its national memory, to cause it to accept ignorance and defend it as if it were the truth", al-Shujaa said.

Exploiting poverty

The Houthis' summer camps and recruitment of children to the frontlines "are aimed at stoking the flames of war, and the group is indifferent to the crisis all of Yemen has been going through due to the coup d'état it carried out nearly six years ago, casting Yemen into a bitter conflict", said lawyer and human rights activist Huda al-Sarari.

"The Houthis know they are exploiting the extreme poverty families are suffering from in the provinces where they set up summer camps," she told Al-Mashareq.

They "exert all kinds of pressure and threats on families to send their children [to camps] to receive the ideology that serves their goals", al-Sarari said.

The Houthis are indifferent to the suffering of the Yemeni people, she said.

"The whole world is suffering from the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic -- which has brought down the health systems and economies of the greatest countries -- and the whole world has mobilised all its forces to cope with the virus," al-Sarari said.

"But the Houthis do not mind killing Yemenis with the virus because they are already diligently killing them by various other means and methods," she added.

The militia has ignored the World Health Organisation's instructions with regard to fighting the coronavirus and has violated its own declared measures, political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

The summer camps confirm that the militia "only seeks to consolidate its rule and control", he said, and to carry out its military operations that threaten stability in the region and globally.

"The Houthis are reproducing the Iranian practice of recruiting children and using them as fuel for their war," he added.

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