Iraqi Children Pay the Price of “Freedom”

February 24th, 2005 - by admin

Saleh Amer / Islam Online – 2005-02-24 08:13:16

MOSUL (February 22, 2005) — Almost two years after the US-led forces occupied Iraq, the children of the northern city of Mosul have united in grief and need, working around the clock to help provide for their one-time well-to-do families, who are now living below the poverty line.

“I have dropped out of school and I’m now selling plastic bags in the city’s market to make ends meet,” eight-year-old Jamal Mohammad told Tuesday, February 22.

Jamal’s father was an army officer, but he has not returned home since the US-led invasion-turned-occupation of the Arab country.

“I have become the breadwinner of my four-member family and I have to work hard for them. There is no time to play,” Jamal added as he was in a tearing hurry.

Hassan Omar, 11, is selling fuel with his younger brother at double the regular price at fuel stations.

“Every day, my brother and I rotationally buy fuel from stations and sell them at sidewalks,” said Omar whose father and elder brother were detained by US occupation troops seven months ago.

Hassan Ali, 10, is no better than the others. He is forced to work as mechanic’s apprentice in Al-Karama industrial district.

“My father was shot dead by US occupation forces one year ago and I have no other option but to work at this workshop for fixing cars,” Ali told IOL after an exhausting 14-hour workday.

Orphaned Children Struggle to Survive
The backbreaking work has indeed put years on Jamal and his fellow children, who have become a phenomenon in post-invasion Iraqi society, paying the silent cost of the US-led occupation.

Thousands of children have to labor at the crack of dawn every day to provide for their destitute families, IOL correspondent says.

The children can no longer enjoy themselves, leaving the playgrounds and schools for traffic jams and workshops, working as apprentices.

“Such stressful work will make them go prematurely grey,” Mowafak Al-Weisi, professor of sociology in Mosul University, told IOL. “They further pick up disastrous habits like smoking and addiction, not to mention some bad manners.”

Weisi also said those children are exploited by their employers — as they are poorly paid. “When they grow up, they will try to vent their childhood complexes on other children and become preoccupied with one and only thing; namely, how to make money.”

A report by British NGO Medact revealed in November that Iraqis will feel the brunt of the US-British invasion for years and “maybe generations” to come with the “alarming deterioration” of the health care system in the war-ravaged country.

The Iraqi health ministry warned in November that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children has nearly doubled since the US invaded the country in March 2003.

The United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) had warned that the number of children who suffer from diarrhea, Iraq’s number one killer of infants, has more than doubled under occupation.

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