Houthi minister tells Yemen school kids to drop pens and pick up rifles

Houthi minister tells Yemen school kids to drop pens and pick up rifles
A Houthi youth minister in Yemen has called for classes to be suspended for a term with pupils and teachers sent to the front lines fight the Saudi-backed government.
2 min read
21 October, 2017
Zaid (centre) shocked Yemenis with his comments [AFP]
A Houthi youth minister has called for a suspension of classes in rebel-held territories, with children and ministers sent off to the front lines to fight against government troops.

Hassan Zaid, minister of youth and sports affairs, said the rebel alliance could end the war in Yemen if schoolchildren and their teachers are sent to reinforce Houthi fighters.

"Wouldn't we be able to reinforce the ranks with hundreds of thousands (of fighters) and win the battle?" he wrote on Facebook.

Teachers in the rebel-controlled capital have reportedly not been paid for months, while classes have been delayed for two weeks.

The comments come as the war between rebels and the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, based in southern Yemen.

Houthis took over the Yemeni capital in 2014, forcing the government to retreat south. The war between the two sides intensified when a Saudi-led coalition backing the Hadi government launched air strikes on rebel areas.

The fighting has cost 10,000 lives and an outbreak of cholera with the risk of mass of starvation even near due to blockades by both sides.

Yemenis took to social media to slam the comments.

"What if we let the students study and sent the ministers and their bodyguards to the front? That would give us victory and a prosperous future," one wrote.

The minister attacked critics who attacked his suggestion.

"People close the schools under the pretext of a strike and when we think about how to take advantage of this situation, they take offence," he responded.

UNICEF estimates 13,146 schools - or 78 percent of all of Yemen's schools - have been hit by the non-payment of salaries, while nearly 500 schools have been destroyed by the conflict, used as air raid shelters or commandeered by armed factions.