Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sufferance Iraqi Children

Kidnap, murder, soldiers, explosion, army, militia, ambush car, refugee; these words are the pattern of vocabulary of Iraqi children growing up in mayhem.

Iraqs’ children have lost their youth to car bombs, missiles, mortars attacks. They are the war wounded, the displaced, the fearful, the new workforce, yet they bear their wounds of war with determination and a patient shrug; for today in Baghdad, Sadr City, Anbar, Basra, Karbala, Kirkurt, Najaf, Diyala Sulaymaniyah, Qadisiyah, Babil, Dahuk, Arbil, Tam’mim, Salah ad Din, Amman, Damascus, Beirut; sufferance is the badge of all their tribes.

In Iraq, the tens of thousands of war victims are faced with endless, often insurmountable obstacles to get even basic medical attention. After years of conflict, the Iraqi health-care system is overwhelmed by the constant influx of wounded patients who flood the hospital on a daily basis. Because of the violence, threats and kidnappings many doctors have left the country, many have been targeted or killed. The remaining ones must tend to the most urgent, life-threatening cases first.

Iraqi refugees wait anxiously inside their apartments in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, for the phone call from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) telling them they have been selected to resettle in America, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Iceland. The children with nothing to do wait also.

In Jordan hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated by the UN and various humanitarian organizations to expand schools so Iraqi refugee children can attend classes yet, few are. Constant bullying and beating from Jordanian and Palestinian children understandably make the Iraqi child want to stay indoors. Even going outside to play may become a battleground between the “locals” and the “foreigners.”

In Syria and Lebanon there are very few organizations that help the Iraqis. If a childs mother or father is caught working, they will be arrested and deported. Often the children are made to earn the money that supports the rest of the family.

Iraqi refugees are putting not only a strain on their current situation but lessening the chances of “resettlement” by giving birth to a new generation, a generation in exile.

But, what does the next generation of Iraqi children bearing not only physical but psychological scars hold? Will they in 10 in 20 years be able to patiently shrug off the sufferance of their tribe?

A young Iraqi child whose parents were targeted because his mother is a Sunni, his father a Shiite, wears the hat he made at a childs center in Amman, Jordan. He and his parents refused to show his face as even in Amman, they fear for their lives. August 2008.

An Iraqi girl shows the photo of her brother who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in Iraq. Her family was repeatedly threatened and finally left Iraq in June, 2008. Her father was also shot, he survived but is physically and mentally handicapped. She now begs for food and money and lives with her mother, father and younger brother in the Saida Zainab district of Damascus, Syria. September 2008

Hanna Hadi is a typical outspoken, fun loving 13 years old except that she suffers serious burns on her face, head, and body from a suicide bombing in 2004 in Al-Nafaf, Iraq. Hanna initially received treatment in Iraq, but after repeated surgeries she was still unable to eat properly, see, or breath. A doctor in Iraq recommended Hanna be accepted in the MSF program in Amman, Jordan. She has lived in the Kaser Jeddha Hotel for a year and has had several maxillofacial as well as plastic surgeries. She will undergo more plastic surgeries in hopes of gaining a resemblance to the young beautiful girl she once was, before returning to Iraq. September 2008.

Hanan is a quiet and sincere 13 years old who suffered serious burns to her chest and neck area from an explosion when a suicide bomber blew himself up in Al Najaf, Iraq. She now receives plastic surgery in Amman, Jordan in a program sponsored by MSF. September 2008

Somaya is 7 years old and from Nasereya, Iraq. She suffers from facial burns and broken bones, caused by an ambush car, which exploded near her home. The wounds lead to facial infections because of inadequate treatment in Iraq. Somaya now receives maxillofacial and plastic surgery medical treatment in Amman, Jordan through MSF. September 2008.

Haneen is 10 years old. In 2006 a car exploded near her house causing severe burns to her back, shoulder and arm. She was initially treated in Iraq but the severity of her wounds allowed her sponsorship in the MSF program for plastic surgery in Amman, Jordan. September 2008.

Elaf only 7 years old has severe burns on her right leg and lost her left leg when a missile exploded in her home in Nasereye in 2007. She has been fitted with a prosthetic leg and receives treatment for her burns in Amman, Jordan. September 2008.

Zenab exercises in the hallway under the concerned supervision of her mother at the Kaser Jeddha Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Zenab lost 10cm of bone from her right leg when a bomb exploded in a market place in Baghdad, Iraq. Her left leg and right arm were also burned. August, 2008.

A Shia Iraqi family taking care of their newborn twins at their home in the Dahiyeh District of Beirut. The man of the house was a professor in Iraq, but fled with his family to Lebanon 18 months ago when he was repeatedly threatened. Refugees like this family, waiting to be resettled, are now expanding their families while in exile. August 2008.

An 8-year-old Iraqi refugee works selling toys to tourists in the Al-Hamidieh market in Damascus, Syria. Iraqi refugees all across the Levant are not allowed to work, if caught by the authorities they will be arrested and deported. With savings spent, and very little assistance given by the UN, it is often up the refugee children to shoulder the responsibility of earning a living for their families. September, 2008.

Iraqi Sunni children hold a childrens’ Christian Story Book given to them by a group of Christians who run an Iraqi church in Amman, Jordan. Their mother died from blood poisoning last year in Amman. The children regularly attend educational programs sponsored by the church. Their interest in Jesus has caused great concern for the father who fears retribution from Muslim neighbors for allowing his children to attend these courses. The Iraqi refugee community remains divided even outside of Iraq. They do not confide in each other for fear that there maybe spies amongst them.
July, 2008.

A young Sabean Iraqi boy looks out a window of his family apartment in Amman, Jordan. Iraqi children are regularly bullied and beaten by Jordanian and Palestinian children whenever they venture out of their apartments. Iraqi parents have no legal rights and fear the attention any complaint against Jordanian citizens may bring to them and their status as refugees. Consequently, Iraqi children tend to stay indoors to avoid any trouble playing may cause to them and their family. July, 2008.

A teenage Iraqi girl in her bedroom in Amman, Jordan. She was molested by the mullah of the mosque her family went to for comfort. She no longer leaves the apartment for fear of neighborhood gossip.. She and her sister now stay inside all day long. Both hope someday to go to America, where they believe they will be safe - or as her family says, be able to confront anyone who tries to harm them. July 2008

Sara feeds her child, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy. Her daughter's health has steadily worsened since arriving in Damascus, Syria one year ago. Sara goes from one charity to another trying to get medical attention for her child. September 2008.

Living with his refugee family in Beirut, this Arabic-speaking Iraqi boy stays home from school and plays video games. In the school system he attends, classes are conducted in French or English, only - yet another disadvantage for those awaiting resettlement here. August 2008.