I cannot think of anyone who did not shed a tear or stare in horror when I expressed my astonishment at the discovery of the Iraqi children with special needs who were neglected and starved.
The children were tied to their beds in one of the governmentally-run orphanages in central Baghdad.
Most of those whom I felt needed to know about this horrifying incident had not heard about it, whether through the media or otherwise.
The children were undernourished and half-starved as they lay on the floor covered in dirt and grime, while two supervisors stood by them smiling. Also visible in the pictures were piles of food and clothing, which the children were deprived of, stored in the neighboring room. However, not all the facts have been unanimously agreed upon in the Arab media making it a major issue.
The story which was first reported by CBS news in America was carried by the Iraqi media but was only mentioned in very few Arab channels and newspapers. Even those who did tackle the matter did not develop it by following up on the case or investigating the background around the discovery.
The fact that such a chilling story has not been transformed into a cause, as the media has a habit of doing over a number of cases, reveals a real defect not only in terms of understanding the function of media, but also shows a terrifying failure to recognize the importance of dealing with issues related to torture and violence in their worst forms.
The Baghdad orphanage story has all the elements of scandal present: torturing the weakest groups of society; orphaned children with special needs, corruption and a cruelty that is neither justifiable nor understandable represented in the form of denying these children food, drink, or even a few clothes so that they may be sold as commodities!
What is most abhorrent, in my opinion, are the images of the smiling supervisors who stand above the bodies of the frail children lying strewn on the ground. It is a scandal that surpasses Abu Ghraib in its atrocity.
And yet, with all that, the Arab media failed to be driven into professional action or fury over what was revealed. No inspection of the orphanage was made; of its history or regarding the identity of those in charge, and the corruption of the Iraqi authority in charge of this abomination. For example, the photographs reveal that the beds and supplies were new shouldn’t the delivery of this aid be overseen to ensure that it actually reaches the children?!
The story of the orphanage was accidentally uncovered by a joint US-Iraqi patrol that was raiding a neighboring area.
Does ‘resisting’ the Americans and ‘opposing’ colonial endeavors warrant turning a blind eye to this discovery and ignoring a terrible tragedy such as that of the children in orphanage in Baghdad?!
Aside from our assessment of the fact that it was American soldiers who discovered this atrocity, what is more important that such a tragedy was unveiled regardless of who brought it to light.
This makes one wonder how many issues remained undisclosed in Iraq, a country where daily tragedies result in generations of orphans, disabled people and widows!
A multitude of researchers and analysts have attempted to study and understand the behavior of perpetrators of violence especially during times of war. Undoubtedly, we need extensive studies to apprehend the behavior of those who are ‘tolerant’ of violence and capable of disregarding such cruelty.