Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Armed Robbery of Iraqi Childhoods

My parents told me stories of how they had to walk many miles through snow, sleet and rain to get to school when they were children. What will today's generation of young Iraqi's tell their children about their treks during the war?
That they had to walk past corpses and hulks of blown-up buses?

Down streets running with blood?

Between cordons of U.S. troops and sectarian militias?

That they had to stay home because it was too dangerous to venture outside?

That their school had to close because there were too few students and teachers?

That they eventually put away their school books and toys and joined the insurgency?
Millions of Iraqi children are being robbed of their childhood. You might called it armed robbery.

Jonathan Powers, manager of the War Kids Relief Program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, addresses this crises in an article, "Iraq's Youth in a Time of War," in the current issue of the John Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies Review Journal.

Powers argues that the U.S. and international community should increase their support for efforts to engage Iraqi youth in their country’s state-building efforts, which he believes is crucial for increasing the stability of the country and region.

He concludes that:
"Iraqi youth face a difficult challenge in the months and years to come, as they strive to overcome childhoods plagued by violence. Along the way, they will face numerous decisions about where to place their allegiance as their country struggles to rebuild itself after decades of tyranny and now occupation. Extremists have a head start in enabling these youths to be part of the current struggle, but it is not too late to change this pattern. The future of Iraq, and of the region, depends to a large degree on the opportunities that young men and women will have to shape their countries' development."
Meanwhile, UNICEF provides a by-the-numbers portrait of Iraqi children here.

(Photograph by Samir Mizban/The Associated Press)

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