The reason most people are horrified when they see or hear about children being harmed or killed is because of what children represent. Children are the future. They represent our hopes and dreams, sometimes of a second chance, for a world we want to change for the better.
Parents strive hard so their children can have a better life than they themselves had. In short, children are the embodiment of humanity’s hope and love.
Just as some terrorist attacks in the West garner more attention than others in the Middle East, unfortunately the same mechanics of emotional distance applies to children who we either do not identify with or are shielded from noticing by the media corporations that tell us which are worthy of compassion and outrage and which are not.
Not many people seem to know that Iraqi children are often traded in illegal markets run by enormous organised crime outfits, many of which have significant enough connections in governmental offices to produce fake identification documents for their “products” to use once purchased by a “customer.”
Children are either procured by abduction, gathered up as orphans from the endemic violence ripping the country apart or come from incredibly poor families with many mouths to feed who are offered large sums of money to part with one child to feed the rest. Families are put in an impossible situation and forced to consider losing all their children to starvation or lose one dearly loved child to save the others — a situation no family should ever be put in.
Some children are purchased by other families who want to adopt illegally and who cannot navigate Iraq’s notoriously difficult bureaucracy that is, in any case, tightly connected to these criminals. Others are sold from an incredibly young age into the sex trade that has spiralled out of control in an Iraq that knows very little about law, order and children’s human rights.
Journalists who searched the streets of Baghdad said the going rate for a baby girl just 18 months old is 10 million Iraqi dinars — approximately $8,500. In other words, the price of destroying one of the future contributors to Iraq’s future is less than the price of a second-hand car. Her life and all that means in terms of hope, opportunity and freedom will be reduced to bringing a sick and twisted pleasure to a deranged customer.
Why do we find ourselves stricken by silence and apathy in the face of Iraqi children being bought and sold like cattle by criminals who have been running amok across Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003? Why can Michelle Obama stand with placards saying “Bring Back Our Girls” for girls kidnapped by barbaric criminals like Boko Haram in Nigeria, yet cannot summon the moral grit to show a simple sign for Iraqi children?
Considering what has happened to Iraq since 1990 and the decades of destruction wrought upon it by the United States and its allies, one would think that at least Iraqi children would deserve their compassion and mercy. However, mainstream media outlets do not want to show their audiences, already war weary because of the US invasion, the realities afflicting the children of people not dissimilar from themselves.
Sadly, the dismantling of Iraq will continue at an accelerated pace and will be assisted by destroying its future and the innocence of several lost generations, scarred by war and abuses from which they may never recover.
Tallha Abdulrazaq is a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute in England.
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