Iraqi children: sexual abuse, addiction and imprisonment

by Niqash - Muhammad al-Tamimi (Baghdad)

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Published 2 May 2008

Published 2 May 2008

Independent and government reports have confirmed an increase in the number of orphaned and sexually abused children, as well as a rise in the number dropping out of school. And as the security situation has worsened of late, nongovernmental organizations warn against the impact of deteriorating security conditions on Iraqi children.

Government statistics indicate that up to five million children live in difficult social conditions. Some 760,000 children were not able to resume primary school in 2008 and up to 25,000 children are leaving their homes – either to elsewhere in Iraq or abroad – each month. Humanitarian organizations report that the number of Iraqi orphans has increased to half a million and according to Save the Children, one in eight Iraqi children, now live on the street.

Mahmoud al-Azzawi, a member of parliament for the Independent List, told Niqash that "conflicts between political blocs are behind parliament’s failure to reach decisions and to seriously address Iraqi realities." He added that article 32 of the constitution stresses that the state will guarantee appropriate conditions for the family and especially for women and children. "However, Maliki’s government has marginalized these issues and does not even discuss them," he said.

The Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation (MoPDC) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), in separate reports, said that millions of Iraqi children are orphans, without shelter, or imprisoned in Iraqi and American controlled prisons. Recent statistics conducted by the MoPDC reveal that "the number of orphaned Iraqi children has reached 4-5 million and that there are some 500,000 street children."

A further study conducted for the UNDP by the Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science, found that "acute malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since the US invasion despite UN efforts." The study based on a survey of 22,000 Iraqi homes said that approximately 400,000 Iraqi children now suffer from malnutrition and said that acute malnutrition has increased to 7.7 percent since March 2003 for those aged between six months and five years.

Officials from Childhood Voices Association, a children’s non-governmental organization, say that "there are 11,000 children addicted to drugs in Baghdad alone, that many girls aged 12 to 16 years old have been victims of rape, and that many girls aged 12 years and above have endured sexual harassment." The organization also quotes international reports stressing that "more than 1 million Iraqi children have entered the labour market with the increase in the rate of poverty (one third of Iraq’s population live under the poverty line) and that they suffer violence and sexual abuse." According to their report, 1.3 million children aged 8 to 16 years old, equal to 6.1% of the population, have become workers.

It is also being reported that 1300 children are currently being held in detention centres and in government prisons.

US troops say that they are detaining 800 Iraqi juveniles aged 10 to 17 years old. American General Douglas Stone, head of Iraq's Detainee Operations, said that "their detention came after they were caught planting bombs on roadsides, observing roads for snipers and armed men and also being involved in battles and carrying guns." He said that "all juveniles detainees form direct threats to security and that 16 juveniles had been detained for a period exceeding one year."

In the face of the deteriorating plight of Iraqi children, Parliament’s Women and Children committee has prepared a number of draft laws. Among these, the Orphans’ Care Fund (prepared six months ago), the law related to the conditions of the Iraqi family (finalized 4 months ago), and a third law for the handicapped. However, none of these draft laws have even been discussed, the reason given being that the government is engaged in preparing a unified draft code covering all these matters in one law.

:: Article nr. 44568 sent on 04-jun-2008 05:51 ECT

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