Catherine Shakdam
Foreign Policy
August 8, 2011

Since the beginning of the popular uprising, Yemen’s government has had to intensify its military recruitment campaign. With the recent waves of defections and the opening of several new fronts, the army is in great need of fresh blood. But most importantly, the government is trying to gather new loyalty under its banner in order to face the threat posed by Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar. Although only a tribal leader, Sheikh Sadeeq has managed over the years to build up a militia quite capable of challenging the Yemeni army.
In response to this, the Defense Minister decided a few months ago to reopen the doors of its training camps, hoping that the promises of a steady income and a state pension would encourage many Yemenis to sign up. Officers close to defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar are saying that al-Islah and the 1st Armored Division are also following suit, trying to enroll more men to their cause, promising them a resemblance of financial security.

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In a country where over 40% of the population is out of work, finding a government job is pretty much what everyone is after. Although the salaries are no more than 25,000 YER, about $110, many are attracted by the guarantee of a lifetime income. And if this tactic is pretty much “old school” when it comes to the military, a worrying trend is starting to emerge, as many of the new recruits are actually children.

Lambs to the Wolves

Young Ahmed Iryani, for example, is only 15 years old; he was hired by the 1st Armored Division just after General Mohsen decided to side with the revolutionaries, severing ties with the government. “It is better for me to work for 25,000 YER a month than stay home without anything to do,” he said. With a gun bigger than him, Ahmed is proudly manning one of the checkpoints around “Change Square”, not realizing that if a conflict were to break out, he would be standing directly on its frontline. “Those kids are meat for the Regime and al-Islah… they are posted where it is most dangerous. It’s sad,” said a Sana’a resident.

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