الحرب: الجيل الذي يعاني من
العنف في العراق
الجارديان - 6/2/2007
Children of war:
generation traumatized by violence in Iraq
Growing up in a war zone takes its toll as young play games of murder and
Michael Howard in Baghdad
Tuesday February 6, 2007
The car stopped at the makeshift checkpoint that cut across the muddy
backstreet in western Baghdad. A sentry appeared.
"Are you Sunni or Shia?" he barked, waving his
Kalashnikov at the driver. "Are you with Zarqawi or
the Mahdi army?"
"The Mahdi army," the driver said. "Wrong answer,"
shouted the sentry, almost gleefully. "Get
The high metal gate of a nearby house was flung open and four gun-toting
males rushed out. They dragged the driver from his
vehicle and held a knife to his neck. Quickly and
efficiently, the blade was run from ear to ear.
"Now you're dead," said a triumphant voice,
and their captive crumpled to the ground.
Then a moment of stillness before the sound of a woman's voice. "Come
inside boys! Your dinner is ready!" The gunmen
groaned; the hapless driver picked himself up and
trundled his yellow plastic car into the front yard; the
toy guns and knives were tossed by the back door. Their
murderous game of make-believe would have to resume in
Abdul-Muhammad and his five younger brothers, aged between six and 12,
should have been at school. But their mother, Sayeeda,
like thousands of parents in
"That day they came home and they were changed because of the things
they'd seen," said Sayeeda as she ladled rice into
the boys' bowls. "The youngest two have been
wetting their beds and having nightmares, while
Abdul-Muhammad has started bullying and ordering
everyone to play his fighting games. I know things are
not normal with them. My fear is one day they will get
hold of real guns. But in these times, where is the
The boys live with their widowed mother and uncle in a modest family house
in al-Amil, a once peaceful, religiously mixed suburb in
Parents, teachers and doctors contacted by the Guardian over the past three
months cite a litany of distress signals sent out by
young people in their care - from nightmares and
bedwetting to withdrawal, muteness, panic attacks and
violence towards other children, sometimes even to their
Amid the statistical haze that enshrouds civilian casualties, no one is sure
how many children have been killed or maimed in
In a rare study published last week, the Association of Iraqi Psychologists
(API) said the violence had affected millions of
children, raising serious concerns for future
generations. It urged the international community to
help establish child psychology units and mental health
programmes. "Children in
Sherif Karachatani, a psychology professor at the
There are well-founded fears, he said, that the "relentless bloodshed
and the lack of professional help will see Iraq's
children growing up either deeply scarred or so
habituated to violence that they keep the pattern going
as they enter adulthood".
Because of the dire security, organisations such as Unicef (the United
Nations Children's Fund), have only a skeleton presence
The country's overstretched hospitals cannot cope with psychological trauma
and many of the best doctors have either fled the
country or been killed. The problems are compounded by
the stigma that psychological and psychiatric care
carries. "They don't bring their children in for
treatment, fearing they will be labelled as mad,"
Dr Karachatani said.
The field is left to small local and foreign NGOs and to hard-pressed Iraqi
psychologists, who are not immune to bloodshed. In
December, Harith Hassan, one of
"It's all some of them think about and know," he had told the
Guardian. "The dangers are they will internalise
the violence and then reproduce it later."
As with Abdul-Muhammad and his brothers, stories and images of beheadings
and sectarian atrocities were working their way into
play, he said, "bringing nightmares to life".
But that need not be harmful. "Getting it out in
their play is probably quite healthy," said Anne
Jefferies, humanitarian advocacy adviser with Save the
Children. The key thing was to provide a safe
environment in which children could play, supervised by
Lynne Jones, a child psychiatrist with the International Medical Corps who
studied children under war in
Their continued wellbeing depends on the kind of environment in which they
live after that, and the values of their families or
parents, she said.
Shortly before his murder, Dr Hassan told the Guardian of his fears for
من حق الزائر الكريم أن ينقل وأن ينشر كل ما يعجبه من موقعنا . معزواً إلينا ، أو غير معزو .ـ