A selection of news stories concerning child soldiers which have appeared in international media over the past month.

UN list names Saudi Arabia; removes Congo’s army for child recruitment

October saw the United Nations release its annual report on children and armed conflict with the naming of Saudi Arabia and removal of the Congolese national army for child recruitment the standout headlines.

The Saudi-led coalition was included for killing and maiming children and attacks on schools and/or hospitals in Yemen. Meanwhile FARDC, the Congolese national armed forces, were removed from the list of groups who recruit and use children, although they remain listed for committing rape and other forms of sexual violence against children.

In total, the list names seven national armed forces and 56 non-state armed groups from 14 countries as guilty of committing the grave violation of child recruitment and use in 2016.

The announcement came five days after the US State Department published details of the waivers issued to countries who were named in its own child soldier list earlier in 2017.

We wrote for Newsweek in the wake of the two publications and analysed their validity and significance.

Close schools and send our children to war, urges Yemeni minister

According to Yemen’s youth minister, schools should be closed and pupils and teachers should be sent to the frontline.

The Guardian reported on comments made by Hassan Zaid in a Facebook post. “Wouldn’t we be able to reinforce the ranks with hundreds of thousands (of fighters) and win the battle?”

Yemen has been devastated by a war between the Huthis, who control the capital, Sana’a, and the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.

Social media users responded angrily to Zaid’s suggestions, with one writing: “What if we let the students study and sent the ministers and their bodyguards to the front?”

Both sides in the conflict are known to recruit child soldiers with Unicef documenting 1,500 cases of recruitment since the conflict escalated in 2015.

The teenage girls who escaped Boko Haram

The exploitation of children by Nigeria’s Boko Haram is deep-rooted with hundreds used as ‘human bombs’ by the group. The New York Times spoke with some of the girls who were able to escape the group.

The interviews with 18 girls who were recruited by the group and sent on suicide missions gives a remarkable insight into the group’s practices.

16-year-old Maryam explained: “I really didn’t expect to survive. I thought I had only minutes to live.”

According to UNICEF, 83 children were used as ‘human bombs’ – 55 girls among them – by the Islamist group between January and August this year. The figure is four times greater than in the whole of 2016.

Iran: Afghan children recruited to fight in Syria

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria, Human Rights Watch announced in October.

Afghan children as young as 14 have fought in the Fatemiyoun division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Iran that fights alongside government forces in the Syrian conflict.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Rather than preying on vulnerable immigrant and refugee children, the Iranian authorities should protect all children and hold those responsible for recruiting Afghan children to account.”

Widespread sexual abuse in CAR revealed 

The shocking scale of sexual abuse carried out by armed groups in the Central African Republic was laid bare in a new Human Rights Watch report published in October.

“They Said We Are Their Slaves” documents 305 cases of rape and sexual slavery carried out against 244 women and 52 girls in the conflict-ridden country between 2013 and 2017.

“Armed groups are using rape in a brutal, calculated way to punish and terrorize women and girls,” HRW’s women’s rights researcher Hillary Margolis said.

SNP conference votes to ban under-18s enlisting in UK armed forces

The youth wing of the Scottish National Party (SNP) secured a landmark victory at the party's annual conference as members voted in favour of raising the army recruitment age from 16 to 18.

SNP Youth have long-campaigned for the Ministry of Defence to ban the enlistment of 16- and 17-year-olds into the armed forces and on 8 October, a majority of party members agreed as the motion passed with a significant majority.

The passing of the motion, which was publicly backed by 17 MSPs, one MP and 12 local branches before the debate, means that the SNP as a whole will now actively push for an increase in recruitment age.

Under the motion, the SNP will work to get the UK government to raise the recruitment age to 18 for all combat training. Read our statement on the important victory here

October by numbers