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With Iraq on the brink of defeating ISIS, the greatest fear of Iraqi youths is a return of ISIS into their lives and communities, according to a new report published by Oxfam. The international agency is calling on the Iraqi government to support its young people, who have lived through years of conflict, including the Iraq War, and to include them in the rebuilding of their country.
Under ISIS, many suffered unimaginable trauma and hardship. One 18-year-old recalled seeing the extremists putting suicide belts on children before detonating them, while another lost his arm in a bombing. All 35 of the young people surveyed, aged between 15 and 22, said a relative or friend had died in the conflict. Many did not go to school and lost two years of their education during the ISIS occupation, while women were only allowed to go outside with a male chaperone.
The young people interviewed in the report hope to complete their education, find jobs, and contribute to the recovery of a united Iraq.
Andres Gonzalez, country director of Oxfam in Iraq said: "Many of Iraq’s young people have grown up knowing a life only of conflict. Their teenage years have been filled with loss and deprivation. The cycle of violence must be broken by investing in Iraq’s young people who are the torch bearers of a brighter future. Opportunities to return to education must be provided to draw young people away from joining armed groups and enduring more years of conflict."
Scholarships and educational grants are among Oxfam’s recommendations to help young people and their country prosper.
Despite the trauma suffered, many of the young people want to stay and rebuild their country instead of fleeing and joining the global movement of refugees. They believe that they are the future of their country and with reason – 61 percent of the population is under 24.
Firas Ismael, 18, is from Qayyarah which lies 60km south of Mosul: "When ISIS came, my family couldn’t leave. I was so unhappy, it was like living in hell. I was scared of ISIS; they slaughtered my nephew who tried to escape. My only fear is that ISIS might return. I want to stay here and rebuild. This is my home – my life is this village."
Notes to editors
To read the report and the full list of recommendations, click here.
Photos, stories and film available here: https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/pages/search.php?search=%21collection34404&k=6c75e3516f