Iraqi Teens Work to Help Their Families - 10.15.2007

Video - Baghdad, Iraq - The population of Iraq is estimated to be at least 50% under the age of 18. These children and adolescents are in dire straits due to the war. This Eid was no exception, as 15 women and children were killed in an American air raid and a suicide attack near a playground killed at least 1 child and wounded 20 others. But the day after, Iraqi families visited to the Baghdad Zoo, as families might on a holiday in any modern country around the world.

Despite the ongoing impact of violence and terrorism that affects all Iraqis, children must even risk their lives to get to school, and many have been forced to leave their friends and country when their families fled Iraq. Unemployment and desperation are leading many Iraqi children and teenagers to work to help feed their families.

Although there are some favorable trends in Iraq, such as the increased productiving of Iraq’s oil industry and a decrease in inflation, unemployment estimates still hover around fifty percent. Iraqis are taking work wherever they can get it, which is part of what is leading the young to go to work. Three young men, including his brother, spoke with Nabeel Kamal about their work and the lives they lead as young men in Baghdad. Two of them work together with Nabeel’s father as painters and carpenters. The checkpoints and threats from militias have prevented them from continuing their craft at their workshop. They now work in the yard outside their home, but within the security of the walls around their property.

Many youth aren’t lucky enough to find work, have families who care for them, or be able to go to school. Some of them have turned to crime or joined militias for work and support. Many of these are accused of being members of the Mahdi Army, but representatives of the Sadr Movement which oversees the Mahdi Army has told Alive in Baghdad that these men are rogue elements and not true members of the Mahdi Army or the Sadr Movement. This trend is no doubt contributing to the numbers of Iraqi teens in youth detention facilities across Iraq.

But whether they are joining militias, braving violence to attend school, or going to work to help their family, Iraqi youth are in grave danger. One of the most widespread effects was trauma-related stress which is estimated to affect 70% of primary school students. The results were based on a study of 2500 kids surveyed in an area in north Baghdad. In some children the manifestation of stress is simply manifested by recurring and terrible nightmares.

Until there is stability in Baghdad, and some semblance of regularity to employment, Iraqi families will continue to find money and employment where they can. Children and teenagers will go to work to assist their families, who may be debilitated by disease or terrible injuries from acts of terror such as car bombings.

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