Suffer the Little Children

Children Pick Their Christmas Toys
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

FALLUJAH, Dec. 25 (IPS) – Ahmed Ghazi has little reason to stock Christmas toys at his shop in Fallujah. He knows what children want these days.

“It is best for us to import toys such as guns and tanks because they are most saleable in Iraq to little boys,” Ghazi told IPS. “Children try to imitate what they see out of their windows.”

And there are particular imports for girls, too, he said. “Girls prefer crying dolls to others that dance or play music and songs.”

As children in the United States and around the world celebrate Christmas, and prepare to celebrate the New Year, children in Iraq occupy a quite different world, with toys to match.

Social researcher Nuha Khalil from the Iraqi Institute for Childhood Development in Baghdad told IPS that young girls are now expressing their repressed sadness often by playing the role of a mother who takes care of her small daughter.

“Looking around, they only see gatherings of mourning ladies who lost their beloved ones,” said Khalil. “Our job of comforting these little girls and remedying the damage within them is next to impossible.”

Hundreds of thousands of children have faced trauma of some sort. And for others, the lack of a normal life is trauma enough.

Just a lack of entertainment is developing into a serious problem. There are only 10 cinemas in Baghdad, and two dilapidated public parks. These are no longer safe for children.

Children do not go out much to play, and they are not sure of home any more. The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing the country every month. The number of Iraqis living in other Arab countries is now more than 1.8 million. There are in addition more than 1.6 million internally displaced people within Iraq.

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