Traumatized Iraqi children struggle to overcome hardships after years of violence

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Traumatized Iraqi children struggle to overcome hardships after years of violence

As most children around the world are celebrating International Children's Day on Saturday, the children in Iraq are still struggling to escape the impacts of violence, displacement, and terrorism that plagued the country following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, reported Xinhua.

Among them is 10-year-old Hathal Sabbar who grew up in the town of al-Dhuluiya north of Baghdad.

In 2011, following years of military invasion, the United States hastily withdrew from Iraq. Capitalizing on the resulting security vacuum, the extremist group Islamic State (IS) expanded rapidly and controlled large swathes of Iraqi territory, including Salahudin province, where Sabbar's home is located.

"The IS terrorists attacked us inside the house after the sunset and took away my three sons. Before that, they killed Sabbar's father," said Shallal al-Shammari, Sabbar's grandfather.

Before long, his mother also left this shattered home.

Since then, Sabbar has been living with his over 80-year-old grandfather, the widows of his three uncles, and his seven younger cousins.

To help support the family, this child, who is now in the third grade of primary school, has to spend his spare time herding sheep.

In 2016, after more than two years of fierce battles, the Iraqi forces liberated Salahudin province from IS militants. But those who were subjected to the group's atrocities continue to be haunted by the tragic experience.

Sabbar still suffers from disturbed sleep and often wakes up with fear at night, screaming: "Here are IS militants coming to us," said al-Shammari.

Psychologists have noticed that in Iraq, years of bloody violence, displacement, social division, and political crises have taken a profound physical and emotional toll on children.

"Images of horrific destruction, torn bodies scattered in the streets, and scenes of the killing of their family members, relatives and friends will remain ingrained in the minds of Iraqi children … and leave negative psychological ims on their future behavior," Maher Abbas, a physician in Baghdad, told Xinhua.

Hussein Mohammed, a social activist who works for the al-Dhuluiya Volunteer Team to care for orphans and needy families, told Xinhua that the psychological trauma experienced by these children often persists for many years.

"We have seen many cases of children haunted with terror like suffering nightmares and other psychological problems, because they saw IS militants take away their family members and sometimes kill them," Mohammed said.

"We are doing our best to help those children, but still I see no comprehensive solution to protecting Iraqi children without a stable political and social environment, which are essential to achieving progress in children's protection," added the social activist.

Despite living in poverty and uncertain about the future, Sabbar said he still harbors his dream.

"I want to become a pilot," Sabbar told Xinhua. "I hope my dream will come true."


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