Iraqi children bear scars of war as nation struggles to heal: report

Iraqi children bear scars of war as nation struggles to heal: report

Shafaq News/ Even as children around the world celebrated International Children's Day, many in Iraq continue to grapple with the lasting impacts of violence, displacement, and terrorism that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, reported Xinhua news agency.

Hathal Sabbar, a 10-year-old from the town of al-Dhuluiya north of Baghdad, exemplifies the struggles of his generation.

After years of conflict, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) exploited the security vacuum and seized control of large swathes of Iraqi territory, including Saladin, where Sabbar's home is located.

"ISIS militants attacked us at home after sunset and took away my three sons," said Shallal al-Shammari, Sabbar's grandfather, according to Xinhua. "Before that, they killed Sabbar's father."

Sabbar's mother also fled the violence. Since then, he has lived with his elderly grandfather, the widows of his three uncles, and seven younger cousins. To help support the family, the young boy, now in third grade, spends his free time herding sheep.

While Iraqi forces liberated Saladin from ISIS in 2016 after fierce battles, the trauma inflicted on those who lived under their rule remains.

"Sabbar still has trouble sleeping," al-Shammari said. "He wakes up screaming 'ISIS militants are coming!'"

Psychologists warn that years of violence, displacement, social division, and political instability have taken a heavy toll on Iraqi children, both physically and emotionally.

"Images of destruction, bodies in the streets, and the killing of loved ones will forever scar these children," Maher Abbas, a Baghdad physician, told Xinhua. "These experiences will have lasting negative impacts on their behavior."

Social activist Hussein Mohammed, who works with the al-Dhuluiya Volunteer Team assisting orphans and families in need, echoed these concerns.

"We see many cases of children suffering from nightmares and other psychological problems," Mohammed told Xinhua, citing instances where children witnessed ISIS militants taking away and sometimes killing family members.

"We're doing our best to help, but without a stable political and social environment, there's no comprehensive solution," Mohammed added. "These are essential for protecting Iraqi children."

Despite the hardship and uncertainty, Sabbar clings to a dream. "I want to be a pilot," he told Xinhua. "I hope it comes true."

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