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Children as Property: Exchanging Children for Money in Yemen

October 11, 2017
Plain English Version

Children amidst the rubble in Yemen. AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

A United Nations spokesman talked about events in Yemen. She said, “It is impossible to say how many kids in Yemen are being pulled out of school now. They are married off or sent to fight. More and more parents are doing this.”

Parents in Yemen are as loving as parents anywhere. But there is a war going on in Yemen. It is between fighters backed by Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is also a war between the Sunni and Shia Muslim religious sects. The result is starvation among the people. Another result is cholera. The conflict has shattered the country. It is a nation that has come apart.

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014 when the Shia Houthis rebels stormed the capital city of Sana. They pushed the government into exile. This led to the involvement of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. They support the government of Yemen. But it is the Saudi bombing that is doing the most damage to the country.

The U.N. says half the Yemen children suffer from stunted growth. Malnutrition is everywhere. Almost all the nation’s schools are shutting down.

The parents are desperate. One story is of a 14-year-old girl. Her parents sold her to a 35-year-old distant relative. There was no marriage ceremony. In return for the girl, the man paid $1,300 as a “dowry.” She escaped and told her story.

She said she had never seen her husband before getting on a bus. She had nothing but the clothes on her back. She said, “When I got there, he told me to undress. I didn’t want to, so he started kicking and slapping me.”

The Yemen boys fight as child soldiers. Poverty-stricken parents send their boys to the front lines of the war. They need their sons’ meager pay of about $55 every three months. It is enough money to support a family of five for two weeks.

Advocates say the war makes it hard to know what is happening in Yemen. There is no accurate number of early marriages or child soldiers. The exploitation of children is more common among the Shiite Houthis.

The United States is on the side of Saudi Arabia.

Source: The New York Times October 9, 2017

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