The endless dark night of an Iraqi boy

16:09, November 08, 2009      

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"I will never forget that dark night, never," Mohammed Alwan muttered with signs of hatred and grief in his eyes.

"I will kill whoever killed my father without mercy." With words the Iraqi boy described the justice in his view towards those who killed his father in front of his eyes during the sectarian strife that has engulfed Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Such cruel words blurted by the nine-year-old boy could only increase fears of what would be the future of this child as long as he is filled with anger and strong determination to take revenge on his father's murderer who he doesn't even know and stormed his house at a dark night and pulled his father out to shoot him dead.

His father's killing three years ago was part of sectarian violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the volatile province of Diyala in eastern Iraq, as well as in most of Iraqi cities and towns.

Sitting on the bank of a small stream that irrigates groves of pomegranate which surrounds a village of about 40 houses near the provincial capital city of Diyala, Mohammed used every day to waste hours near the stream listening to dozens of birds singing while grubbing through a newly cultivated piece of land.

"More than two years ago heavily armed men stormed our house late at night and dragged my father just outside the house and while we were crying and pleading they fired bullets at him and killed him at once," Mohammed who is also known at his small village with the name of "orphan" told Xinhua with tears in his eyes.

The plight of the Iraqi children after the U.S.-led invasion pushed the world's relief bodies, including the UNICEF, to paint a bleak picture of their situation. According to UNICEF, an estimated 2 million Iraqi boys and girls are suffering from the negative impact of violence as well as poor nutrition, diseases and interrupted education.

The killing of Mohammed's father was a turning point to the boy, who had stayed silent for five months after the tragedy. He is frequently absent-minded for hours every day.

Last year, he left school for failing to continue his study due to his bad temper and violent actions towards his classmates.

In Iraq, many children pass dead bodies on the streets as they walk to school in the morning or even just in their neighborhoods, but what traumatizes a child most is for him to look at the bullets penetrating his father's body.

"I will never forget the bullets that pierced his body as I was bitterly crying and pleading to them because I didn't want to lose my father. He was my whole world and meant everything to me," he said, adding that he still remembered one of those murderers hitting his mother on the nose with his fist.

Mohammed vowed again that one day he would revenge his father, saying "I will kill them all without mercy when I grow up."

Mohammed's mother expressed concern that his son may become a psycho. She said "he was getting better and with the passing of time he increasingly started to talk to others and he started to tell me about whatever came across his mind."

The mother also has fears of her son's determination for revenge. The poor woman is afraid of losing her boy after losing her husband.

"I am afraid that one day he will commit a big mistake because I feel that his desire to revenge his father's murder is increasingly growing inside him despite my attempts to stop him. I wish he could give up thinking of his father's death and forget what has happened," his mother said.

Sa'ub al-Khazraji said his brother, Mohammed's father, was killed by a group of al-Qaida linked militants who were controlling the rural areas and many cities and towns in the province of Diyala a few years ago.

"We even didn't know those murderers before, most of them were unknown Iraqis and some were foreigners, but the child is haunted by the idea of revenging his father," al-Khazraji said.

Badr Idham, also 9, is Mohammed's closest friend. He said Mohammed did not want to play football with him like in the old days and had not attended the school for a long time.

Idham said Mohammed had changed into a violent child and some children called him "crazy."

"One day Mohammed beat me with a hard wooden stick because I joked with him and told him that the children were calling him crazy," said Idham, unaware of how hard his words were on Mohammed.

Bahaa al-Liheiby, a psychiatrist who teaches at a medical school in the province said that "some of those children are suffering from one trauma after another and it is certainly damaging their development. We are not sure about what the situation will become with the next generation since what we have now is only a human wreckage."

An official in the provincial government said that authorities in the province were aware of the problem but largely unequipped to address it, adding "until we have real improvement in security, it's difficult for us to do more to help these children."

Usama Al Duleimy, Mohammed's former teacher, called on the Iraqi government and the international community to assist poor Iraqi children, especially those suffering from mental or physical traumas.

"Mohammed is a clever and cute kid and one of the top students in my class. But he is always living in the grievous memory of that endless bloody night. I hope he can wake up from the nightmare with the help from government and psychologists as our county is struggling to recover from war and violence," the teacher said.

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