Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Ground Truth Project Update: What about Iraq’s youth?

Recently, the media has been looking toward the future of Iraq and asking an important question: What about Iraq’s youth? In the fall of 2006, the Ground Truth Project released an interview with Cpt. Jonathan Powers, founder of War Kid Relief, a group that helps keep kids off the streets and out of militias, criminal syndicates and insurgent groups. Since then, he has been praised for his achievement in reengaging Iraqi youth in positive activities. In late January, Jon’s work was highlighted in Newsweek and ABC News. In the Newsweek front cover story, The Next Jihadists: Iraq’s Lost Children, Jon warns:

“Already some of these kids are taking up arms—mostly against members of the opposite sect, whether Sunni or Shia, but often against American troops as well. Instead of training them to rebuild their country, they are being trained to use weapons to destroy it. If the pattern isn't changed, we will be fighting these same youths in the future for peace in the Middle East."

In a January 24, article in on ABC News, Powers defends Iraq's frequently-vilified youth, stressing that Iraqi kids are surrounded by violence with no way to escape:

"These aren't kids who are terrorists or extremists; these are kids who have nothing else to do. Because they can't get to school, there are no clubs for them to join, they're being brought into this community of jihad."

With Jon’s help, we're able to look beyond the immediate visible threats coming out of Iraq and see the importance of investing in the future. Helping Iraq’s youth not only helps to stabilize Iraq, but also ensures that we will not be fighting the same battles in the future.

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