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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

The children of Iraq

by Lily Hamourtziadou

8 Apr 2007

‘Jesus called the children to him and said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”’ (Luke 18:16)

As we in the west celebrate Easter, an increasing number of Iraqi children are going to ‘the kingdom of God’ or simply to the ground. Others lose their families. Childhood, the most important, the most precious and most innocent time in a person’s life is systematically destroyed, defiled and devalued by the daily violence, the daily attacks that do not take them into account when selecting their intended target. The insurgents will bomb the patrol/government building/politician even if there is a school/child nearby; US planes/tanks will attack the homes of suspected insurgents even though there are children inside; soldiers will shoot at a suspected terrorist even when he is holding a child.

As the world marks another anniversary of Orphan's Day on April 5, orphans are increasing in Iraq as violence claims more lives every day. The acts of violence that swept Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 have left scores of Iraqi orphans, but the same number of orphanages.

In Mosul Orphanage, children gathered to mark the anniversary by remembering their parents who were killed in the acts of violence. According to Nahla Zannun, an orphanage teacher, some blame the world for their lost parents and others envy the rest of the world’s children because they live with their families. Some scream at night, others cannot speak, a number of them are the only survivors from their families. There are those that try to imagine their families are still alive and will come to get them, even though they have seen them die.

There are fears that these children will start to hate society and will join armed groups and form gangs as soon as they are old enough to do so.

During our holy week around 550 civilians were killed in Iraq; at least 32 of them were children.

On Monday 2 April around 120 die. A suicide truck bomb kills 14 civilians in Kirkuk, when it explodes outside a government building during a visit by American troops, which may have been the bomber’s target. In the event, 9 young girls die as they leave their classroom in the school next to the government building, as well as 5 more people, including mothers. A roadside bomb kills 10 in Khalis, US forces kill 6 (3 of them brothers) in Mosul, and 45 bodies are found in Baghdad, Baquba, Mosul and Falluja. There are reports that 30 civilians die in a US bombing of the houses of two brothers in Al-Bu-Aytha, 14 children among them.

On Tuesday nearly 60 die, including 2 university students killed in Baghdad, a teenager killed by mortars while playing football, and 30 bodies found in Baghdad, Ramadi and Diyala. One body, found with its throat cut in Sab al Bor, is that of an 11-year-old boy.

Wednesday 4 April is the quietest day of the week, as there are only 49 civilian deaths reported. Of the 49, 11 are employees of an electricity station shot dead near Hawija and 5 are policemen. A further 20 bodies are found, while US troops attack 5 buildings in Ramadi and kill, among others, a man, a woman and a child. In Karbala, 93 unidentified bodies are buried.

On Thursday 5 April 80 are reported to have died, 54 of them found bound, tortured and executed in 6 cities, 2 of them just heads. Among the dead a journalist, an interpreter, killed alongside 4 British soldiers blown up in Basra, and a 3-year-old child, little Ali, shot dead as he sits on his grandfather’s lap.

On Good Friday 6 April over 80 die, 9 of them university students ambushed and shot dead in the minibus they were riding in Hawija. A suicide truck bomber targeting a police checkpoint kills 35 in Ramadi, while a family of 7, 3 children among them, is blown up by a roadside bomb near Falluja. Clashes between US troops, Iraqi soldiers and insurgents kill 7 civilians in Diwaniya.

90 die on Saturday 7 April. Clashes continue for a second day in Diwaniya, where 6 more civilians are reported killed, a judge is murdered in Qara Taba, while US air strikes of two villages, Al-Nay and Al-Dohma, kill 8. Mortars kill a teacher in Baquba, and police find 64 bodies in 8 cities. Among the bodies, 6 herdsmen that had been abducted the day before, dumped in Karbala.

On Easter Sunday 8 April 70 civilians are reported dead in Iraq. A car bomb kills 7 in Baghdad, while another car bomb kills 18 in Mahmudiya. Clashes in Diwaniya kill a further 2 civilians, while clashes in Diyala kill another 3. Police find 35 bodies in Baghdad, Falluja, Baquba and Missan province. Thousands of Iraqis flock to the holy city of Najaf for a big demonstration scheduled for Monday, and called by Moqtada al-Sadr against US presence in Iraq, on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. A new dispatch of US forces, 3,000 of them, arrive in Baghdad to ‘assist in law enforcement.’

In a statement issued by his office in Al-Najaf, Al-Sadr appealed to Al-Mahdi Army and security forces to stop fighting, warning the Iraqi Police forces and Army against following the occupier. In the statement, Al-Sadr accused the United States of seeking to trigger sedition either directly or through its agents who abandoned their homeland and honour. Al-Sadr called on Iraqi security forces and Mahdi Army to stop infighting, and urged them instead to fight the occupiers and their agents.

And they will fight them, regardless of who else they kill in the process, no matter how blameless, no matter how precious.

Who cares for the children of Iraq? Who cares enough not to take away their parents? Who cares enough not to sacrifice them to their cause? Who cares for those that Jesus himself welcomed into his arms as deserving of God’s kingdom?

As the fighting continues, there are no places left for the children to hide.