US detains nearly 800 juveniles in Iraq
The US troops are holding nearly 800 children and teenagers on a Baghdad base, boys who are largely illiterate and picked up for planting bombs and now the focus of a multi-million-dollar education project.world Updated: Aug 23, 2007 13:48 IST
The US troops are holding nearly 800 children and teenagers on a Baghdad base, boys who are largely illiterate and picked up for planting bombs and now the focus of a multi-million-dollar education project.
Dressed in orange jumpsuits reminiscent of the uniforms of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, the youngsters aged 10 to 17 attend a US-run school seven days a week, eight hours a day, in order to mend their ways.
Equipped with four football pitches, 18 classrooms and a library, the school is stocked with television sets, DVDs, Harry Potter in Arabic, text books, white boards, rows of desks and chairs, and hot lunches.
Running around barefoot on the stony sports field, trousers rolled to their knees and kicking a ball around, they shriek with delight as American soldiers stand watch from a guard tower next to giant blast walls.
Game over, baton-wielding US troops order their "juvies" to squat, hands on head before frog-marching them to their next lesson.
Inside, soldiers stand with pepper spray ready, sunglasses clamped round their heads, keeping watch as civilian Iraqi teachers try to instill basic grammar and arithmetic into teenagers who can barely read or write.
"Where are the mountains in Iraq?" asks the teacher in a geography class for around 30 largely enthusiastic boys aged 11 to 13. One boy scrapes back his chair on the concrete floor.
"North of Baghdad," he chirps, plopping down pleased with himself in a line of pubescent boys proudly sporting downy fluff on their upper lips.