Everyday Life in Baghdad for the Kids

IRAQ: Children lured into drugs and prostitution
12 Feb 2007 09:17:20 GMT
Source: IRIN

BAGHDAD, 12 February (IRIN) – Violence in Iraq is tearing families apart and destroying the country’s economy, two major factors giving rise to a mass of marginalised street children, child specialists say. Once on the streets, children can easily fall prey to gangs involved in drugs, violence and prostitution.

“Children are the first victims of violence and they are particularly vulnerable psychologically speaking. So it’s easy for an adult who would like to do so to manipulate and use children. There was already the case of a child who was used as a suicide bomber in late 2005, for example,” Cedric Turlan, information officer for the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), said.

Ali Mussawi, president of the local NGO Keeping Children Alive (KCA), said that since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 there has been an increase in the number of children used by criminal gangs. Mussawi said that a major reason for this was that many homeless children quickly turn to drugs, including sniffing glue or vapours from liquids such as paint, which have large amounts of intoxicants.

“Many street children join criminal gangs to get money for their [drug] habits because the money they get from begging is not enough for them to eat and consume their drugs,” Mussawi said.

Mussawi added that some criminal gangs offer these children drugs in exchange for sexual favours.

“[Street] boys and girls are in a desperate situation. The Ministry of Interior cannot control such groups and the losers are the children who cannot escape,” he said. “It is a torture. These children are starving to death and the gangs use their desperate situation to force them into a drugs and sex world.”

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