Shocked and Awed

Iraqi children’s interpretations of the ‘war on terror:’ Thumbnail: child's drawing of a hospital being bombed.

The drawings were collected over a 2-month period in May and June 2003 at the request of Carl Rosenstein and the Puffin Foundation. The task proved a difficult one due to the chaos and instability created by the war’s aftermath. Schools were looted. Teachers, parents, and children became casualties of war. “Real” security was nonexistent despite numerous checkpoints and the heavy-handed crackdown by American forces. My good friend Hayder Mousa, an Iraqi filmmaker with two children of his own, was instrumental in organizing the classroom settings in which these drawings were made.

Assail School is located in New Baghdad, a working-class sector in the south part of the capitol. It had been damaged during the fighting and looted by displaced and desperate locals after the massive bombing campaign devastated the city. When I arrived the school was filled with children trying to return a semblance of normalcy to their lives. Their instructors attempted to teach class despite a lack of books, desks, chairs, and ceiling fans in the hundred-plus degree heat. They taught amidst broken windows, raw sewage, and the specter of continued violence.

It’s pleasing to see that the children are supportive of Saddam’s being deposed, but it’s definitely interesting to note the proliferation of images depicting civilians being harmed.