Children as the victims of war and occupation in Iraq by Nazila

2013-02-11 17:07:00


The Iraqi War that started in 2003 was successful in overthrowing the Baathist government, but it did not help the millions of children in the country.

Instead, it made their lives worse by affecting their participation in education in Iraq, which is the one of the worst places for children in the world.

Malcolm Potts, an obstetrician, reproductive scientist and professor of public health at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote for a Los Angeles newspaper that despite spending $3 trillion on the Afghan and Iraqi wars, the US failed to stabilize these countries. Dr. Potts blames high-fertility, patriarchal societies for the unstable condition in countries such as Iraq that make the lives of their people, especially women and girls, worse. He advocates for education in the fight against terrorism in poor counties.

The Centre for Research on Globalization has also noted that the Anglo-American occupation forces and Iraqi government have failed to fulfill the most basic physical, mental, moral and spiritual needs of the children of Iraq and to create a safe environment in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, resolution 44/25, dated Nov. 20, 1989. UNICEF Representative to Iraq Dr. Marzio Babille has reported that “every third child in Iraq, or about 5.3 million children, is still currently deprived of many of their fundamental rights.”

One of the fundamental rights of all children is the right to education. However, children in Iraq cannot safely enroll in schools. The situation is even worse for girls. In 2004 and 2005, only 2.4 million boys and 1.9 million girls registered at primary schools in Iraq. According to UNICEF, that meant only 44.74 percent of primary school-aged children had registered in Iraq. There was no rise in the enrolment of girls in the following years; instead 75 percent of girls dropped out during or after the completion of primary school. There were 21.66 percent fewer girls in grade two than in grade one. However, before the war, school attendance among boys and girls was 100 percent.

There are numerous reasons that explain the drop in the number of children, and particularly girls, attending primary schools in Iraq. First, since the war, only 11,368 schools buildings are in use out of the 14,000 in pre-war Iraq. There has also been a decrease in the number of schools that are safe and operable. A report by UNICEF indicates that since March of 2003, 700 schools have been damaged by bombings, resulting in more than 200 burned and over 3,000 looted; a third of the schools in Baghdad were damaged in bombings.

Despite efforts, education remains huge problem

Second, according to UNICEF and the Iraqi Ministry of Education, one-third of all primary schools in the country do not have a water supply, and almost half are without sanitation facilities. The schools also lack of sufficient desks, chairs and classrooms to accommodate their students. UNICEF hopes to improve education as well as water and sanitation programs with the EU's 24-million-euro contribution to UNICEF's country programs for 2011-2014 in order to enable the access of Iraq's 15 million children to quality water, sanitation and education services. By 2009, the EU had donated over 180 million euros to open more schools, hire more teachers, buy better teaching and learning materials, improve the curriculum and improve the health and nutrition of students in Iraq. However, the situation is still getting worse in Iraq, and the enrollment of girls in schools declines each year.

Third, some of the most significant factors affecting the attendance of girls at primary schools include the still ongoing conflict and criminality and the fear of bombings, explosions and kidnapping. It should be noted that more than 93,500 children belonging to internally displaced families were missing as of 2009, according to a report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Unfortunately, parents not only fear of terrorist attacks on schools but also attacks by the Iraqi Army and government militias. The Centre for Research on Globalization has reported the intimidation, kidnapping, arrest and killing of students occur on a regular basis. As a result, school attendance among both girls and boys has decreased dramatically.

Fourth, there are millions of poor children in Iraq, and school participation is the least important need they have among the basics, such as shelter and food. Currently in Iraq, there are almost 3.5 million children living in poverty, 1.5 million children under the age of five who are undernourished and 100 infants who die each day. Moreover, there were 5 million orphans in 2007. Dr. Souad Naji Al-Azzawi has reported that more than half a million of these orphans live on the streets without family or specialized institutions to take care of them and are easy targets for human traffickers, criminals and so on. Even those who are at specialized institutional facilities cannot afford to attend school.

For example, Halima, a 9-year-old girl who has lived at a public orphanage since her parents were killed by a car bomb, told the producers of the documentary film “Voices of Iraq”: “Our problem here is that we do not receive academic education. If only the government could build special schools for us to guarantee our future.”

Therefore, I agree with Dr. Potts that education is important in fighting terrorism and improving the status of women and girls, who have the least rights in patriarchal societies. However, at the present time, the patriarchy is not a sufficient reason to explain the decrease in the enrollment of children, especially girls, in schools. There are more factors affecting the lives of women and girls in Iraq. Despite the fact that the foreign invasion is over, the Iraqi government has done nothing concrete to improve the capability of Iraq's government structure or the application of the rule of law to create a safe school environment for millions of children to help them to escape poverty and lead prosperous lives.

Yorum Yaz