Fadhel, Iraq “Stealing is the easiest job in Iraq today”
© Afif Sarhan/IRIN
BAGHDAD, 8 Feb 2007 (IRIN) – “I’m an 11-year-old boy who has never been to school – so I can neither read nor write. For the past two years I have been living on the streets of Baghdad, surviving on leftovers that I scavenge from garbage or by stealing from people and shop-lifting.
“When I first started, I was scared that at any time the police would catch me for stealing. Now it has become easy for me to steal. I have become an expert and the proof is the title my peers have given me. They call me ‘the young king’.
“People might be surprised to hear a child like me being happy for being an expert at stealing and looting things but in a country like Iraq, where most people are without homes and food, the hero is the one who can survive by whatever means.
“I’m an orphan and don’t know who my parents are. Nor do I know if they are alive or dead. I was taken into an orphanage when I was four years old and since then different people have been taking care of me. They were not good people. During [former president Saddam Hussein] Saddam’s time, police officers sometimes used to come and have sex with older boys.
“I ran away from the orphanage during the [US-led] invasion with another three boys in 2003. But three months ago they abandoned me as they discovered the world of drugs.
“Sometimes I feel lonely. The only thing that makes me happy at the end of the day is when I steal something which I can sell in a market to get some money to eat or something which I may use myself. If I don’t steal food, I usually steal things like electronic items. I never steal from people’s homes. I usually make about 5 or 10 [US] dollars a day.
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