A time bomb of trauma in Iraq

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP There’s a time bomb ticking in Iraq, but it isn’t made from chemical explosives. It’s made up of traumatized children.  U.S. newspapers have given extensive coverage to the mental health issues faced by U.S. veterans of the Iraq war. Most recently, the New York Times published a lengthy account of women’s struggles with ...

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603185_070320_children_05.jpg

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP

There's a time bomb ticking in Iraq, but it isn't made from chemical explosives. It's made up of traumatized children. 

U.S. newspapers have given extensive coverage to the mental health issues faced by U.S. veterans of the Iraq war. Most recently, the New York Times published a lengthy account of women's struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and earlier this month, we blogged about a video-game treatment for traumatized troops.

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP

There’s a time bomb ticking in Iraq, but it isn’t made from chemical explosives. It’s made up of traumatized children. 

U.S. newspapers have given extensive coverage to the mental health issues faced by U.S. veterans of the Iraq war. Most recently, the New York Times published a lengthy account of women’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and earlier this month, we blogged about a video-game treatment for traumatized troops.

If grown adults who are in Iraq for just a few deployments suffer such mental health problems, then what about the children there who have grown up surrounded by nothing but war and violence?

A recent CNN report brings attention to these “silent victims.” CNN cites a World Health Organization study that found that 30 percent of children surveyed in Mosul, and 10 percent of those surveyed in Baghdad, showed signs of PTSD. Examples of traumatic experiences children have suffered include a fourth-grader whose father and uncle were killed before his very eyes, and a 16-year-old girl who was abducted, raped, and forced to sleep next to a dead body.

Traumatized children grow into very troubled adults. What does that say about the future of Iraq? In the coming decades, it will become a nation run by psychologically damaged people, if the country isn’t stabilized soon.

For a preview of what to expect, just look west to the children of the second intifada. Today, they are a nihilistic generation of young adults, filled with little hope and much despair.

The Middle East is filled with demographic time bombs. The latest may be the Iraqi trauma time bomb.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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