Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 17,488,000
    – under-18s: 9,540,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 66,300
    – reserves: 40,000
    – paramilitary: 70,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 182129
  • Voluntary recruitment age: unknown
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces; indicated in armed groups
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II; ILO 138; ILO 182
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces. Children reportedly participate in ongoing conflicts among tribal groups. Forced recruitment was also reported during the civil war in 1994.


North and South Yemen were unified in 1980 but the unification was threatened four years later when calls by southern leaders for secession led to a brief civil war. While the government maintained unity, it still has to deal with ongoing intra-tribal warfare, as well as kidnappings and other sabotage committed by local Islamist movements. Yemen has had border disputes with Eritrea over the Hanish islands in the Red Sea as well as with Saudi Arabia over islands to the north of Yemen.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Conscription is not referred to directly in the Yemeni Constitution, but Article 23 states, "The law shall regulate general mobilization which shall be announced by the chairman of the Presidential Council following the approval of the House of Representatives."2130 Conscription has existed in Yemen since unification in 1990. All men between 18 and 30 are liable for military service which lasts from one to two years.2131

Since the conscription system is quite disorganised and birth registration is irregular, draft evasion and underage recruitment is quite common.2132 Joining the army is perceived by many as a privilege and is highly sought after since other employment opportunities are extremely limited.

Military Training and Military Schools

Military schools are for the training of officers only. There are four Military Schools: Air Force; Defense Air Force; Military College; and Navy College.

Past Child Recruitment

During the 1994 civil war, there were many reports of the forced recruitment of children, many of whom were recruited because of their tribal affiliation.2133 In 1994 a UNICEF representative in Sana'a, Amwali said children less than 15 years old were recruited by the warring parties in Yemen.2134


  • The Aden-Abyan Islamic Army

This Islamist group has been implicated in acts of violence including kidnapping 16 western tourists in December 1998 in the Abyan province. It is not known whether children serve as soldiers in the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army.


According to the US State Department, "Tribal violence resulted in a number of killings and other abuses, and the government's ability to control tribal elements remained limited. In addition tensions between the government and various tribes periodically escalate into violent confrontations."2135 The tribes are responsible for kidnappings, shootings, revenge killings and other acts of violence. In one incident, 10 persons were killed and 3 injured when a fight at school between 2 children from different tribes escalated into violence. The feud between the Nehm and Al-Haymah tribes resulted in several deaths.2136

Tribal children are taught to use weapons from an early age. Firearms are widely available and students in some rural areas take their guns to school.2137 Children are believed to be widely involved in tribal conflicts and feuds. Children in the Yemeni countryside can be seen carrying weapons and guarding Qat (a mild narcotic found in Yemen and East Africa) fields. Since most tribal conflicts start over access to Qat fields, one can assume that children are indirectly if not directly participating in tribal conflict.

2129 Brett and McCallin, op. cit.


2131 Report of the Secretary General, UN doc. E/CN.4/1997/99, op. cit.

2132 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

2133 Ibid.

2134 Xinhua News Agency "UNICEF official calls for protecting Yemen's children", 5/7/94. 2135US State Department.

2136 Yemen Country Reports on Human Rights Practices .2000, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour February 2001

2137 Donna Abu Nasr "Weapons Abound In Yemen. AP. 22/3/00.


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