A Problem Derivative from Globalization: Human Rights Exploitation of Iraqi Children

By Faruk Arslan

Abstract:

Children increasingly face a variety of human rights violations and are targets in the global economy, as they are trafficked into slavery labour and forced to become child soldiers and sex workers, and are the targets of systemic rape, ethnic cleansing, malnutrition diseases, and injuries from land mines, the victims of torture, of being displaced refugees, and even of genocides. The United Nations International Convention on the Rights of the Child, with its optional protocol, has ratified almost every single country since 1989, but this document provides very little protection to children worldwide, especially in third world countries such as Iraq. Since the US-led invasion in March 2003, every child in Iraq has paid too high a price of several degrees of psychological, physical, and emotional trauma as a violation of human rights. Iraqi children face rape, forced prostitution and marriage, child trafficking, domestic violence and sexual exploitation. New types of slavery and child sexual harassment are increasing in business sectors in the global economy through globalization, which has initially triggered the violation of human rights and has spread especially in Iraq to be a force against children, for instance, slavery grows with the demand of slave labour, where extreme working conditions are worsening as less protection is provided for the child population so that it faces such problems as poverty, hunger, homelessness, orphanage, having refugee status, and facing torture. The Iraqi government, US army soldiers, insurgent armed groups and Iraqi families commit crimes and violate the human rights of Iraqi children. In this research, I explore, argue and measure specific data after the US led-invasion between 2003 and 2008, which is an Iraqi children‟s rights violation where the issue of juvenile justice is specifically addressed as these human rights violations place a negative effect on the global economy. This research focuses on problems of trafficking, forced migration, the sex world, and slave labour trades within their conflicting stances in respect to current laws including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and this study finds conditions and possible solutions of the abandoned and desperate population of Iraqi children in the global economy discourse, and it advocates the international community and the Iraqi government to better their condition.

Key Words: Iraqi children, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking, forced marriage, domestic violence, sexual exploitation

Introduction

Several of the United Nation‟s human rights reports, UN-backed surveys, a UNICEF report, a World Health Organization (WHO) study, the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation (MoPDC), and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) have underlined the „Iraqi Children Human Rights Violations‟ issue in separate reports. Several NGO reports on children indicate that a wide range of grave human rights violations are exposed in Iraq, including death and injury from sectarian violence of abuse and torture, military operations and the increasing use of Iraqi children as suicide bombers by armed groups. Iraqi children face “rape, forced prostitution, trafficking, forced marriage, domestic violence and sexual exploitation” (1). Between the years of 2003 and 2006, the US detained 2,400 children in Iraq, and this rate rose dramatically in 2007 to an average of 100 new children per month from 25 a month in 2006, and by the end of 2008, 1000 children were being held in the Iraqi detention (2). The number of Iraqi orphans has increased to half a million, and according to Save the Children, one in eight Iraqi children now live on the streets. Iraqi child refugees are the most vulnerable population amongst a growing humanitarian tragedy, and violence continues on in the countries they‟ve fled, such as Jordan and Syria, wherein “these children are starving to death and the gangs use their desperate situation to force them into drugs and the sex world” (3).
I am interested in this topic because new types of slavery and child sexual harassment are increasing particularly in business sectors in the global economy by means of globalization, thereby triggering the violation of human rights that is especially common-spread in Iraq against children, for instance, slavery grows with the demand of slave labour where extremely rough conditions are abandoned and unattended to, and less protection is provided for the child population so that it faces such problems as poverty, hunger, homelessness, orphanage, refugee status, and torture (4).
The Iraqi government, US army soldiers, insurgent armed groups and Iraqi families commit crimes and violate the human rights of Iraqi children. Violations of basic fundamental rights and the physical integrity rights of Iraqi children are recorded according to the UN, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are based on the fourth Geneva Convention on the treatment of civilians during an international armed conflict.
In this research, I explore, argue and measure specific data after the US led-invasion between 2003 and 2008, which is an Iraqi children human rights violation where the issue of juvenile justice is specifically addressed as these human rights violations place a negative effect onto the global economy. This research focuses on problems on trafficking forced migration, the sex world, and the slave labour traders within the conflict of the current laws and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and this study finds conditions and possible solutions of the abandoned and desperate population of Iraqi children in the global economy discourse, and it advocates the international community and the Iraqi government and states how to stop ignoring the human rights that exist in documents.
My arguments and questions here are why the international community does not take action and puts pressure on children human rights, while it still programs to save the Iraqi children who are now paying the high price of war, and why Iraqi children are not given the priority for international investment in Iraq as they would be the foundation for their country’s recovery, and why it is that the harassment of the global economy and violations of human rights are never ceasing while the existing human rights documents remain useless?
The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq has greatly affected the violation of the human rights of many Iraqi children, and the extent of devastation and the deteriorating conditions are unbearable and consist of the following issues:
1- Suffering Psychologically, Emotionally, and Physically
2- Human Trafficking, Forced Migration and the Slave Market
3- Sexual Exploitation, Rape and Forced Prostitution
4- Forced Soldier work, Torture and Detainment in Prison
Iraqi children suffer psychologically, emotionally, and physically
Iraq has a very young population; almost half of the Iraqi population is estimated to be under the age of 25, although about 50 percent of it has been suffering psychologically, emotionally and physically, being in a critical state of fear which can cause mental retardation if it goes untreated, according to the Association of Psychologists of Iraq (API)‟s report findings (5). The United States and its international community haven‟t engaged with the deconstruction of the war that had affected millions of Iraqi children, where many youths are in a desperate position and are either hired by insurgents or live in poverty. Since the launch of the war in March 2003, many children suffered psychologically extreme stress with insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions, whereas they were highly vulnerable to disease and malnutrition and a noticeable increase in the number of children seeking psychological counseling have learning difficulties.
92 percent of those interviewed were found to have learning impediments, resulting from the climate of fear and insecurity that they were surrounded with, and the only things they had on their minds were guns, bullets, death and a fear of the U.S.‟s occupation of their land, according to the report findings (6). The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) had tried to help children suffering from the trauma of war, but their study had frozen a couple months later due to a shortage of funding and the need to give preference to displacement emergencies (7). In a report entitled “Little Respite for Iraq’s Children in 2007”, UNICEF had said Iraqi children were so frequently caught in the crossfire of conflict throughout 2007 that two million children in Iraq were facing threats including poor nutrition, a lack of education, disease and violence, and a lack of healthcare where hundreds were killed in violence during 2007, while 1,350 were detained, and an average 25,000 children per month were being displaced from their homes as their families fled from violence or intimidation, 75,000 children had resorted to living in camps or temporary shelters, and many of the 220,000 displaced children of primary school age had their education affected in a country where around 760,000 children (17%) were already absent from primary school, and only 28% of 17-year-olds sat to take their final exams (8). This report provides specific data on what kind of violation of human rights was committed against children. Roger Wright, UNICEF’s special representative for Iraq, told the media that “Iraqi children are paying far too high a price” (9). This stress and trauma increased when those Iraqi “children had their main family wage-earner kidnapped or killed” (10).
In fact, Iraq has a low capacity of the undemocratic type of regime in which is least likely to respect human rights, and children are most likely its victims among all citizens according to human rights watch agencies‟ measurements, their criteria and reports. In practice, none of human rights‟ treaties have been enforced by the Iraqi government to show respect for Iraqi children‟s rights, since the US led-invasion was a trigger to increase these violations. The Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation (MoPDC) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), in separate reports, said that millions of Iraqi children are orphans without shelter, and are being imprisoned in Iraqi and American controlled prisons (11).
A further study conducted for the UNDP by the Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science found that “acute malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since the US invasion despite UN efforts” (12). A United Nations-backed survey, which was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and conducted between 2007 and 2008, revealed that 48 percent of the 150 schools assessed were dirty, and around 63 per cent of the schools lacked chlorine testing procedures for drinking water, placing children at a high risk of water-borne diseases (13). T. Ismael Shreen‟s book, Children Caught in the Crossfire, is about the lost generation of Iraq that discovers how Iraqi children have had traumas and been exploited in the global economy (14).
Human Trafficking, Forced Migration and the Slave Market

A UNHCR report stated that more than 1.5 million Iraqis are internally displaced in Iraq, including some 800,000 who fled their homes prior to 2003, as well as 754,000 who have fled since then. A further 1.6 million Iraqis are refugees residing in neighbouring countries, with the majority in Syria and Jordan where it registered an average of 13 cases of sexual and gender violence per week against Iraqi refugee women as well as children in Syria between January and August 2008 (15). The majority of Iraqi citizens cannot live or make a decent living because they are unemployed, unskilled in labour, and do exploitative work, whereas there are weak labour laws and unions, inadequate social services, weak political, social, economic, and security systems, a declining regulatory state power, and foreign invasion and bloody civil war that yet continued. Deborah Elli‟s book, Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees, covers many short biographical Iraqi children stories between 2003 and 2008 that are narrated by the children who had been victims of the war in Iraq and who range in ages from 8 to 19, mostly in Jordan and Syria. These children are witnesses to the human rights violations and have had the severe traumas in experiencing the refugee world (16).
The crucial number of Iraqi child labour consists of those employed as illegal workers in the informal sector of the economy, though their employers‟ parents and the state are silenced of these violations because of poverty. The international standard of labour hasn‟t been applied to Iraqi children labour or their families before and after 2003. In fact, the International Labour Organization (ILO) first established a minimum wage for the children employed in 1919 and 1973, where the Minimum Age Convention prohibited activities against children under the age of 15 as labour is hazardous to the physical, mental and moral well-being of a child beneath this age (Convention 138). Furthermore, CRC (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) has accepted several articles in 1989 against economic exploitation and the abuse of children. The CRC has been adapted as a universal ratification since 25 September 1990 by 193 countries in the UN, with the only exception of the USA and Somalia.

The ILO adapted a new convention called Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention in 1999, stating that the priority of age elimination was extended to the age of 18. The ILO is under its 1992 International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), which should be expended as preventative measure and also helps to rehabilitate child labourers (17). UNICEF advocated in its report that improved access to education is the most effective way to eradicate child labour in Iraq (18). The UN has adopted eight Millennium Global Goals in 2000 in which all of them are related to child labour issues and have provided them emergency relief, and it seems to be the MDGs goals of 2015 that is not likely to met, especially because the Iraqi children labour slavery has gotten worse in 2010 (19).

Sexual Exploitation, Rape and Forced Prostitution

The sex trade industry has been increasing its business and exploitation of children worldwide thought sex traders have targeted war zones in poor countries to have the most victims of the child for sex trade and tourism. Extreme poverty and nationwide unemployment have pushed Iraqi parents to resort to selling their children to gangs, and for instance, the Iraqi government forces have captured 15 human trafficking gangs operating in Iraq in nine months in 2008, in which children are sold for as little as $3,000, and for every young baby, the price could reach $30,000 and is based on age and gender, where the victims of this practice are driven into prostitution. While much of this takes place within local borders, there are many occurrences on an international level as well, particularly in Syria and Jordan. The Iraqi Families Association (IFA) as an NGO was established in 2004 to register cases of those missing and trafficked, and at the time, at least two children were sold by their parents every week (20).

The increasing number of children and young women fleeing war live under poverty and fall as prey to sex traffickers. Iraqi children under the age of 18 and women have been banned from working legally in Syria, and those who had fled the chaos in their homes are being further betrayed after reaching „safety‟ in Syria because they have few options outside the sex trade, and over 50 thousand of them are forced into prostitution because either their husbands or parents had been killed in Iraq (21). A report published by the UNHCR and UNICEF, the UN children’s fund, concluded that an estimated 450,000 Iraqis in Syria “are facing aggravated difficulties related to their ambiguous legal status and unsustainable income that prostitution among young Iraqi women in Syria” are being trafficked by organized networks or family members (22).
Children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution and have increasing risks in a number of health and psychological hazards such as AIDS, herpes, Chlamydia, crabs, gonorrhea, syphilis, and pelvic inflammatory diseases (23). Child prostitutes and other sexually exploited children are hit by severe psychological depression, low self-esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder, and they have also attempted to commit suicide, while the CRC condemns the sexual exploitation of children through prostitutions and other illegal sexual practices such as child pornography, sex tourism, etc. (24). In 1996, the First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was held in Stockholm, Sweden, where 120 countries promised to cooperate against the criminal action of child exploiters, though global commercial sexual exploitation is still within the unstoppable market, the international sex trade industry is still growing, more children are becoming victimized, and the violation of Iraqi children rights remains an unsolved problem.

Forced Soldier work, Torture and Detainment in Prison

Iraqi rebels, paramilitary groups and militia groups have recruited Iraqi children soldiers under the age of eighteen since 2003. On the other hand, sexual attacks and exploitation by the U.S. army and Iraqi security forces are used against children to humiliate and terrorize them in their community or to torture them in prisons. Iraqi children witness torture, murder and rape,
and watch loved ones beaten to death, experiencing different levels of trauma left as severe marks on their psychology. Younger Iraqi children have learning difficulties and big children have depression and more aggressive behavior because a traumatized Iraqi child has a lot of severe symptoms and complications such as “anxiety, developmental delays, sleep disturbances, nightmares, decreased appetite, withdrawn behaviour, and a lack of interest in play” (25).

In addition, an Iraqi government report indicates that 1,300 children were held in detention centres and in government prisons in 2007. US troops say that they are detaining 800 Iraqi juveniles aged 10 to 17 years old. On the other hand, Iraqi child prisoners between 13 and 17 are being accused of supporting insurgents and militias that they are being abused and tortured by (26). These facts were also claimed in the 21st May 2008 Human Rights Watch statement (27). An American journalist, Seymour Hersh, wrote on this subject in his book, named Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. He states that “the US government has videotapes of children being raped at Abu Ghraib” (28). The CRC’s Article 37 requires that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (29). As human rights abuse patterns show, it can be predictable that a hegemonic power invasion were to exploit weak country resources in countries such as Iraq. The US government plays with language to justify its abuses, but the human rights law, as found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, requires “that all persons arrested be brought promptly before a judge, have access to legal counsel and family members, be charged with a cognizable criminal offense, and receive a prompt trial meeting international fair trial standards.” It also requires and states to provide every child with “such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor” (30). Holding the detainees without judicial review and other basic rights is against the operative law of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the treatment of civilians during the international armed conflict.

A political scientist, Michael Haas, mentions in his book, George W. Bush, War Criminal?, that “thousands of Iraqi children have been imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise denied rights under the Geneva Conventions and related international agreements since 2003. ” (31). Haas claimed that the US has been charging minors with war crimes instead of treating underage persons as victims of war since 2002, and the US army had detained 2,400 children in Iraq, although other sources state the latter figure was 800 according to the US official report to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Some Iraqi children in prison are not allowed to write or telephone home for as long as five years in which is against the CRC’s Article 9. This states that a captured child shall be allowed to “maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis.” (32).

Seymour Hersh and Haas have mentioned that there is no recreational opportunity for the hundreds of children detained at Bagram or at Abu Ghraib, in which is against CRC Article 31. This requires that children have the right “to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child” (33). Haas found that the US army, national governments and rebellion groups are currently still violating the Iraqi children‟s human rights in the national legal system, and they only watch its violation that occurs in many ways, including the mistreatment of children, lack of investigating the abuse of children and failure to prosecute prison personnel allegedly guilty of such abuse, not allowing parents to visit children and to have legal counsel, the failure to provide children with speedy trials and promptly inform children of the crimes against them, and the weakness of allowing witnesses to testify on behalf of children and not provide them with social programs (34). The international communities should collaborate with the campaign of the CRC, which always mentions “the best interests of the child to be a primary
consideration in all actions concerning children,” such as “specific protection from sexual exploitation and abuse including child pornography, the right of protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, etc” (35).

In conclusion, Iraqi national laws need to take an action on children rights and consider the optional protocols made by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Individuals, institutions and policy makers must actively support the full range of children’s rights guaranteed in Iraq as mentioned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which supports the lower poverty rates, provides universal access to child and maternal health care, nutrition, and education, and guarantees protection for children during armed conflict and other difficult circumstances (36). I suggest that international organizations such as UNICEF, the UN, the EU, national governments and human rights institutions and other bodies from all over the world should collaborate with a stronger international campaign for the enforcement and adaptation of an optional protocol and associate with an effective working group, adding extra rights in effort to raise public awareness and mobilize a strong international action against the violation of children in Iraq.
The CRC also needs to have more unique rights and safeguards because some articles are not guaranteed to be accessible to everyone, and it needs a strong global enforcement that should state that all rights should apply equally to all children regardless of race, religion, colour, gender, ethnicity, etc. The UN should be focusing on the international standards in Iraq on juvenile justice, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Beijing Rules, the Riyadh Guidelines and the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty. UNICEF and other organizations have indicated that its funds have increased to support the Iraqi children in need and vulnerable groups in Iraq, and especially mental health care is crucial for children, such as a post- trauma stress centers which is the most urgent of this care. According to Hague and Geneva Conventions, the US and UK are responsible for responding to the medical needs of the population among other nations that want to help the victims of armed conflict, where most of these victims are Iraqi children; however, the core of human rights is violated based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as the right of social security, the right to work and be provided protection against unemployment, and the right for health, food, clothing, and housing for Iraqi children (37).
In fact, globalization doesn‟t support human rights and instead increases inhuman rights and wrongdoing in Iraq, especially against children. Neo-liberal global economists support the global capital and global governance through multinational and interrelation institutional dominated states, and they weaken the state role, in which this process has been noticeable in Iraq since the US- led invasion in 2003. Imperialist forces have been using the process of privatization of natural resources in Iraq in which increasing numbers of Iraqi children are suffering psychologically, emotionally, and physically, going through human trafficking, forced migration and the slave market, sexual exploitation, rape and forced prostitution, and forced soldier work, torture and detainment in prison. Without a civil society, strong national state, or legislation and international campaign on human rights, the Iraqi children‟s human rights cannot be protected and are not sustainable under the pressure of the global economy.

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