March 13, 2007
As the United States-led occupation of Iraq is entering it’s fifth year, living conditions for Iraqis continue to deteriorate. While most Americans acknowledge this, they are not propelled to take the necessary actions to put an end to our country’s involvement in such suffering. Why? A large component is our country’s corporate media, which ignores or conceals the true impacts of war and occupation while focusing on “American interests.” In reality, these supposed interests harm our lives and ruin Iraq’s stability. If the mainstream media showed the extent to which Iraqis are suffering as a result of our country’s actions, it’s likely that more folks would rise up to call for an immediate end to the occupation.
What can we as activists do to combat inadequate media coverage? We can emphasize a human-rights-based framework by creating and supporting the media of resistance, using reports from human-rights groups and testimonies from Iraqis themselves to disseminate information about the real impacts of the occupation.
As young American activists that are appalled by our country’s actions abroad, it’s important for us to hear directly from Iraqi youth of similar age. Youth aged 13 to 25 comprise more than 63 percent of Iraq’s population, and due to their lack of rights and resources are vulnerable during times of war and occupation. Hearing from these often silenced voices gives activists new insights into Iraqi society while illuminating the thoughts of the nation’s future leaders. Most importantly, realizing the extent to which the lives of youth are being harmed will hopefully inspire us to use the power and resources we have (that we often take for granted) to radically change the situation for Iraqis. America is our country and ultimately, it is our responsibility to ensure that our government is acting in agreement with the people.
Life in a war zone
The lives of “Ahmad” and “Qasim,” two Iraqi youth whom WireTap interviewed in 2006, illustrate the experience of young people living in Baghdad: insufficient and unstable basic services, a lack of security due to violence, and inadequate government representation. Deficient services and violent environments put youth lives at risk. Those who survive feel disempowered and inhibited, are psychologically traumatized and may be motivated to participate in acts of violence. Either by choice or because of poverty, the majority of youth remain in Iraq to face exasperating conditions. The two young men I interviewed represent a growing minority of those seeking refuge abroad. There are now an estimated 1.2 to 1.8 million Iraqi refugees due to the occupation.
WireTap interviewed Ahmad and Qasim in July of 2006 in Amman, Jordan, about their experiences under the U.S. occupation. Sixteen-year-old Ahmad moved to Amman in early July 2006 with his family for temporary relief from the occupation. His father, a lawyer, remains in Baghdad until he can find work in Amman. Ahmad hopes to go to college in Jordan, and with a perfect score on the comprehensive exams, it is likely that he will be admitted to any university he wishes to attend.