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Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Saudi Arabia

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Saudi Arabia, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 25 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 24.6 million (10.7 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 224,500
Compulsary Recruitment Age: no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: not applicable 1
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 182

There was no evidence of under-18s in the armed forces.


Since 2003 there had been several attacks on Saudi and Western targets, in which some 300 people were killed.2 Thousands of Saudi young men held in jails were enrolled in "de-radicalization programs", which aimed to "reform and re-educate" potential al-Qaeda members. The government offered financial incentives on completion of the program in an effort to prevent recruitment to armed groups.3


National recruitment legislation and practice

According to the constitution, "[t]he defence of the Islamic religion, society, and country is a duty for each citizen." There was no conscription.4 In April 2005 Saudi Arabia reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that "the State prohibits the enlistment of any young person under the age of 18 in the armed forces".5

The Saudi Arabia National Guard, additional to the regular armed forces, was under the control of the head of state, rather than the Ministry of Defence. It reportedly recruited primarily from tribes loyal to the ruling family, although the sources for potential recruits were widened to meet the demands for a larger force.6

According to the government there were no militias, and safeguards existed, including in military codes and articles, to ensure that under-18s were not recruited into the armed forces.7

Military training and military schools

Military training began at the age of 18, and recruits were regarded "as students and not military subjects in the armed forces".8 Training took place at four military schools: the King Abdul Aziz Military Academy, the King Fahd Air Force Academy, the Chief of Staff's Academy and the King Fahd Security Academy. Members of the Saudi Arabia National Guard received training at the King Khaled Military Academy and from the US-based Vinnell Corporation.9

Armed Groups:

An al-Qaeda offshoot, al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, stormed the US consulate in December 2004, killing nine people and injuring others.10 On 24 February 2006 a Saudi-based al-Qaeda cell conducted a suicide attack on Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq oil facility near Dammam, which resulted in the death of two security guards and several of the bombers.11 There were no reports of the involvement of under-18s in these groups.


In March 2006 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that the government expedite the process of ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.12

1 No national elections. Nationwide municipal elections were held for the first time in 2005, in which male Saudis aged 21 and above were eligible to vote, "Q&A: Saudi municipal elections", BBC News, 9 February 2005.

2 "Saudi Arabia", Amnesty International Report 2007; "Saudi police round up militants", BBC News, 7 June 2007.

3 "Saudi jails aim to tackle terror", BBC News, 31 January 2008.

4 CIA, "Saudi Arabia", World Factbook,

5 Second periodic report of Saudi Arabia to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/136/Add.1, 21 April 2005.

6 Global Security, "Saudi Arabia National Guard", 27 April 2005,

7 Letter from the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Coalition, 22 April 2004.

8 Ibid.

9 Global Security, above note 6.

10 "Saudis renew vow to fight terror", BBC News, 7 December 2004.

11 "Al-Qaeda behind 'Saudi oil plot'", BBC News, 25 February 2006.

12 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Saudi Arabia, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/SAU/CO/2, 17 March 2006.

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