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Number of child soldiers continues to rise in Yemen

The drive for more government-aligned and defecting units of the military has continued to grow since protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh began in February. Many of those recruited have been adolescents, IRIN reports.

“It is better for me to work for YR25,000 [US$110] a month than stay home without anything to do," one 15-year-old soldier told IRIN.

All of the three main units - the pro-government Republican Guards, Central Security and the pro-opposition First Armoured Division - have been allowing teens under 18 to enlist, according to child rights activists.

The exact number of enlisted underage soldiers is unknown, but Ahmad al-Qurashi, chairman of local NGO Seyaj Organization for Childhood Protection (SCOP), estimates that there are at least several thousand.

According to humanitarians at Human Rights Watch, Yemen officials have continued to turn the other way when the issue of child soldiers has been brought up for debate.

"The Yemeni government has for too long placed children at grave risk by deploying child soldiers on the field of battle," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "President Saleh's opponents should not perpetuate the problem by using children for security on the field of protest."

Although humanitarians view this as a serious problem, it may not change anytime soon as many parents allow and even encourage their young sons to forge their ID cards to be able to join, IRIN said.
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