Iraqi Children: Deprived Rights, Stolen Future

Published on Global, by Bie Kentane, March 13, 2013.

… This report will focus on the violations by the occupying forces and the Iraqi government of the Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, (ICRC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  • Article 28. Right to education;
  • Article 29. Goals of education. All children have the right to a primary education, which should be free.  

Before 1990s, Iraq’s education system statistically surpassed its neighbours in terms of access, literacy and gender equality. However, almost three decades of wars, cruel sanctions and humiliated blockade have pushed back those advances(Jinan Hatem Issa, 2010).

The youth component of the Iraqi population is the fastest growing in the nation. Iraq had an estimated 30,399,572 people in 2011 according to the CIA World Factbook. The median age was 20.9, and 38% of the country was 14 or younger. Both of those statistics made Iraq the second youngest country in the Middle East and North Africa. This important element is obviously not being invested in, which could have detrimental affects upon Iraq’s future. One of the major problems with the Iraqi bureaucracy for example is a lack of trained staff. If many Iraqis are failing to gain even a basic education, this issue will likely not be solved any time soon (Wing, 2012).

The destruction or closing of schools and universities, the displacement of the population and the fact that teachers are members of the professional class who were killed or forced to leave Iraq, resulted in loss of schooling for children and young people, and therefore loss of life opportunities. Many children were displaced during the occupation due to sectarian policies imposed by the occupiers, with no adequate facilities for their schooling. Loss of schooling is very hard to make up. Not only did the children and young people have their opportunities in later life reduced, but the community and ultimately the state also loses from inadequate education.

In the last several decades, Iraq went from one of the best education systems in the region to a mediocre one. Wars and sanctions devastated the government’s ability to take care of its children. Today the school system is failing to educate a large number of kids, because of a mix of untrained teachers, lack of schools, and out of date methods.

A poll done in September 2011 found that only 34% of Iraqis were satisfied with their local schools, down from 66% in February 2009 (Wing, 2012).

Early Childhood Development:

  • Analysis of four domains (Learning, Social-Emotional, Physical, Literacy numeracy )  shows that 95 percent of children are on track in the physical domain , but less on track in learning (89 percent), socio-emotional (78 percent) domains and strikingly less in literacy-numeracy (18 percent) domain.
  • In the domain of literacy-numeracy and learning the higher score is associated with children living in richest households and with older children; social-emotional skills are higher among girls(UNICEF, MICS, 2011).

Enrollment: … //

… Girls’ Education:

  • In Iraq, the impression was how proud people were of the fact that Iraq once had the best educational system in the Middle East, including for women(UNESCO, 2012).
  • In primary education girls account for 44.74% of the pupils. Some 75% of girls who start school have dropped out during, or at the end of, primary school and so do not go on to intermediate education. Many of them will have dropped out after grade 1(UNICEF, 2010).
  • Gender parity for primary school is 0.94, indicating that less girls attend primary school than boys. The indicator is even lower for secondary education which is 0.85.  The disadvantage of girls is clearly pronounced for background characteristics , like governorates, mother’s education and wealth index.
  • The highest differences in school attendance between boys and girls occur in rural areas.
  • It’s worth noticing that the secondary net attendance ratio for females (45 percent) is lower than for males (52 percent) (UNICEF, MICS, 2011).
  • In 2010, a UNICEF report described the learning environment in Iraq as influenced by poor safety, family poverty and a reluctance to allow adolescent girls to attend school. The report quoted female students referring to their schools as ‘unwelcoming, unpleasant, dirty, poorly maintained with filthy lavatories and no drinking water(Sponeck, 2011).

The Quality of Educational Facilities: … //

… Security and Sectarianism:

  • The UNESCO National Education Support Strategy released in 2008 estimated that 2 million children of primary school age did not attend school largely due to the security situation. While the situation has improved, children’s access to education remains compromised by the security situation. “Many threats against schools continue to come from(the so called) “ insurgent groups”  demanding a change in the curriculum or attempting to deny students from certain targeted groups access to education.The punishment for failing to comply with these demands is often violence”,(UNAMI HR, 2011).
  • Who are these “certain targeted groups”, and what does the report exactly mean by “insurgent groups”?
  • Sectarian policies of the Maliki government hamper the right to education of Iraqi children in predominantlysunni areas. Attacks on educational institutions by the Iraqi Army and government militias, to intimidate, frighten, kidnap, arrest and kill students occur on a regular basis. As a consequence school attendance has decreased dramatically.
  • Sectarianism also comes “through the back door”.It seems that the students in dominantly “Shia” provinces obtained much better results than those in provinces with a predominantly Sunni population.In 2009 protests broke out in three Sunni Muslim cities in which conspicuously low numbers of students passed their national exams, fuelling suspicions that Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-led government is discriminating against Sunnis and others(Issa, 2009).

The Educational Curriculum: … //

… Concluding Remarks:

  • The Occupying powers bear full responsibility for the violations of these provisions and Conventions related to children. They should be held fully accountable for the harm they have inflicted upon the Iraqi children. They have deliberately changed the social fabric of the country, used ethnic cleansing to break up the unity of the country, destroyed water purification systems, health and educational facilities and indiscriminately bombed dense populated areas, leaving the children extremely vulnerable on all levels. Living in a country at war also causes mental disturbance to virtually all children, and acute anxiety and depression if not psychosis in a considerable number.
  • The Iraqi institutions and mechanisms that should ensure physical, social and legal protection for women, children and youth are dysfunctional and unreliable. As a result, the most vulnerable are exposed to exploitation and abuse, such as killing and maiming, kidnapping, gender based violence, human trafficking, recruitment and use by armed groups, child labour and deprivation of liberty (NGO coordination Iraq, 2010).
  • The international community and international Human Rights bodies also bear considerable responsibility for this alarming situation because they failed to adequately address the grave violations inflicted upon the young and vulnerable in the Iraqi society and failed to identify the real culprits.

(full long, long text, references and notes).


The Children of Iraq: Was the Price Worth It? on Global, by Bie Kentane, February 19, 2013;

Violations of Iraqi Children’s Rights, on Global, by Prof Souad N. Al-Azzawi, March 19, 2010, and on BRussels Tribunal, March 1, 2010;

Iraq and the Betrayal of a People: Impunity Forever? on The BRussels Tribunal, by Hans Christof von Sponeck, Feb 20, 2013: Iraq’s recent history includes two far reaching events, on the 2 August 1990 Iraq’s invasion into Kuwait and on 19 March 2003 the US/UK invasion into Iraq. Whether political leaders will draw lessons from these events will be, at best, questionable. Iraqis continue to be wronged. Danger to life and turmoil remain a cruel part of Iraq’s reality in early 2013. The collective suffering of a nation is visibly all pervasive. It can not be hidden …;

The BRussels Tribunal: people’s vs total war incorporated, Homepage, IRAQ, IRAQ: SPECIFIC GROUPS – CHILDREN.


Comments are closed.