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When I first entered the Iraqi Safe House for Creativity, an orphanage that shelters 33 orphans and displaced youth, I was compelled to document the stories of those taking refuge there. Two days later, I left with 33 stories demonstrating the gravity of Iraq's situation and its direct and indirect impact on thousands of children. I bore witness to their lives and listened to the stories of the many crises they have been through.


Iraq has been in varying states of chaos for the past two decades. It started with international sanctions in the 1990s that hit the most vulnerable members of society the hardest. Much of Iraq's vital infrastructure was destroyed during the 2003 invasion, alongside the infrastructure of the Government. Violence is commonplace. Ethnic and religious tensions are soaring. There is the constant threat of terrorism from al-Qaida and Daesh (ISIS). People live in fear, and there is minimal trust in the Government's ability to cope successfully with all of these issues. Suffice it to say it is a dangerous place to be a child.


Al-Qaida, which was not a problem in Iraq before 2003, recruit at-risk children because they are easy targets. Hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq do not have access to education, and many live in dire poverty. The Iraqi Safe House for Creativity, directed by Hisham Al-Thahabi, aims to provide shelter to some of these children. This story is about some of Iraq's orphan survivors: those with nowhere else to go because they are the children of war.

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