Local newspapers and alarabiya.net reported on June 21 the shocking news from Iraq about a government-run orphanage for children with special needs. Finding the children in the Baghdad facility in tears, some of the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were shocked at the harrowing scene. The 24 boys were found naked, lying on concrete floors, covered in their own excrement and with flies and sores. Some were nearly dead. The news was horrifying, especially the photographs of children tied to their beds, the bones of their skinny bodies exposed.
I cannot speak out enough about this brutal treatment of innocent homeless children. These Iraqi children were supposed to be taken care of by their monitor. Unfortunately, he used the money set aside for the orphanage, abused the children and sold their canned food on the open market.
This is not the only scandal we hear of in Iraq. There are many conspiracies, betrayals and murders that result from clashes between government forces and Islamic groups, just as there are between Iraqis and certain Arab and other foreign fighters. With the religious and racial polarization reigning death and destruction, our condemnation of the foreign invaders grows ever louder. Things have gotten so, that we blame them for everything wrong in Iraq. But how could a foreign enemy persuade a people to kill one another, if sectarianism and discrimination didn’t exist among them in the first place?
Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq brutally for almost thirty years. Yet despite his dictatorship and inhumane policies, we never heard of Shiites and Sunnis killing one another other. Although we have heard of many issues that have encouraged sectarian division, the country was never falling apart like it is today. The new Iraqi authorities gave the green light to groups and parties to surface and begin the attacks. People who were once victims are now predators. Tribalism is eating away at Iraq ‘s vitals. We cannot lay all the blame for what has happened on the foreign invaders. If the citizens were united, their enemies would never have walked through the door and found their way into the country. It was disunity that opened that door, so outsiders could take advantage and make trouble in the country.
If America or Britain were responsible for the orphanage, the entire world would have been in an uproar over it. But since an Iraqi was responsible for the heartbreaking scene, it is for the shamed Iraqi government to quietly resolve.
When watched Iraqis dance with joy after Saddam was toppled, we were happy for them. We only wanted the best for an Arab nation with such deep roots and such a glorious past. We thought that now, Iraq could again become a land of science and literature, and that things would change for the better. But disappointment soon set in
The Iraq War has brought nothing but destruction to Iraqis and Arabs. Iraqis haven’t stopped fighting one another since the war began and scenes of pain and murder continue to fill our TV screens, troubling our consciences and driving young people into the arms of extremists. It’s painful to see misery on the face of any Arab, but how can one forget that our loyalty is first and foremost to our country, culture and families? How did we come to believe that inflaming tribal and sectarian passions would benefit an Arab nation?
Reflecting deeply on the orphanage story could help us change our thinking and relate better to the reality of ordinary Iraqis. All this talk of Arabism and unity is just a ruse. We don’t want to see or admit what’s really going on in Palestine, Lebanon and now Iraq. What we’ve seen in this case and have known throughout history is that Arabs are incapable of sympathizing with one another.
People obsessed with the concept of jihad should start with themselves, their children and their families, by raising them properly and helping their wives maintain a happy environment for the family. I believe that doing this is much better and healthier than promoting destructive and violent ideologies that poison people’s minds and lives.
Dr. Maha Al-Hujailan is a medical researcher at King Khaled University Hospital in Riyadh.
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