Hvordan er det å være barn i dagens Irak? Når elevene ser at læreren blir drept foran øynene deres? Det gjelder å forhindre at årtier med voldspsykopati blir internalisert hos fremtidige generasjoner, sier en kjent psykolog.

Harith Hassan var en av Iraks mest kjente psykologer.

He had been determined to wean Iraqi youth from their obsession with the gun.

«It’s all some of them think about and know,» he had said. «The dangers are they will internalise the violence and then reproduce it later.»

Stories and images of beheadings and sectarian atrocities were working their way into play, he said, «bringing nightmares to life».

Det han sier om dagens sanseløse vold, er politisk interessant. Det er ikke okkupasjonens skyld, det er en voldskultur som har vært dyrket i årtier som nå går amok.

«Do not make the mistake of blaming the occupation and the recent war for all of this. For more than three decades, young Iraqis have been forced to learn how to kill. We must now learn instead about dialogue and compromise. Otherwise, we will continue to produce psychopathic personalities for whom violence is simply a means of negotiating daily life.»

Harith Hassan falt selv som offer for volden. I desember ble han skutt og drept på vei til arbeidet.

Foreldre og barn er overlatt til seg selv. De få profesjonelle ressursene er strukket til bristepunktet. Organisasjoner som Redd Barna trekker seg ut etter 15 år i Irak.

Parents, teachers and doctors cite a litany of distress signals sent out by young people in their care – from nightmares and bedwetting to withdrawal, muteness, panic attacks and violence towards other children, sometimes even to their own parents.

No one is sure how many children have been killed or maimed in Iraq. But psychologists and aid organisations warn that while the physical scars of the conflict are all too visible – in hospitals and mortuaries and on television screens – the mental and emotional turmoil experienced by Iraq’s young is going largely unmonitored and untreated.

In a rare study published earlier this month, the Association of Iraqi Psychologists (API) said the violence had affected millions of children, raising serious concerns for future generations. It urged the international community to help establish child psychology units and mental health programmes.

«Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions,» the API’s Marwan Abdullah told IRIN, the UN-funded news agency. «In some cases, they’re found to be suffering extreme stress,» he said.

Sherif Karachatani, a psychology professor at the University of Sulaymaniya, said there are well-founded fears that the «relentless bloodshed and the lack of professional help will see Iraq’s children growing up either deeply scarred or so habituated to violence that they keep the pattern going as they enter adulthood».

Because of the dire security, organisations such as Unicef (the United Nations Children’s Fund), have only a skeleton presence in Iraq. Save the Children is closing its operations next month after 15 years in the country. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society has been forced to suspend a programme for children suffering from war trauma owing to lack of funding.

Children of war

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