The symbol of a child’s yearning for liberty is when you see him running after a ball. In this action there is desire to have fun, the emulation of a “myth”, fantasy that is galloping next to the leather ball. There is everything one needs to get through life: hard work, determination, method, and challenge. As well as the dream of a better future. That is why stealing it from children in war zones is as much of a crime as assassination. It happens far more frequently than we might think, since we are accustomed to line up the numbers of the dead, turn victims into statistics, where by victims are to be intended those who, unfortunately, have been swept away by violence.
But for those who stay, life is often a dark road uphill. Like the one of Abdul-Hafidh Abdul-Ali, 14. He was playing on an improvised football field together with dozens of other kids who do not surrender to the sadness of war. His dream was to become a Barcelona striker one day. His idol is the team’s striker, Lionel Messi, and his talisman was the Blaugrana jersey number 10. Yet, it was not enough to protect him.
It was hot in Asriya on that morning of March 25 and there were two youth teams on the field. Their supporters were on the sidelines, in the dust. Then explosions happened. An attack caused 43 dead, 29 of whom were children under 17 years of age.
Over 100 people were injured in this attack; many of them were children. Among those who were taken to the hospital was also Abdul-Hafidh Abdul-Ali. An American thestar.com reporter met him. “When we met – she says – I found him lying helplessly in a bed under a mosquito net, in a small house a few hundred meters away from the football field where the bomb had exploded. A shrapnel (a type of hollow artillery bullet filled with lead or steel balls) had struck the boy right in the face, blinding him. Abdul looked as if he were sleeping, his arms bore the marks of the attack; they will heal, doctors told his parents, but Abdul will never see the light again.”
This sentence could have been appealable if they had found the money to go abroad, in better-equipped facilities; there, in Iraq, bombs leave no room even to medicine, relegating it to emergencies. But the splinters in his eye had to be removed within a month, otherwise blindness would have been irreversible. It makes the whole situation even more tragic; it is the description of how much damage human beings can do – directly and indirectly – through violence on the one hand and taking away opportunities on the other hand. Gulping people’s lives like a ravenous monster. A slap in the face of the countries that call themselves ‘civil’ while feeding this horror.
Abdul-Hafidh Abdullah’s uncle described what had happened after the explosion. He had found the boy lying in in a pile of bleeding children, scattered on the football field. They rushed to the nearest hospital in his car, but it lacked the necessary facilities to help the boy.
Abdul’s story is also the story of other 230 million children and adolescents struck in the wars around the globe. According to data provided by the UN and UNICEF, in the last 30 years the number of young victims has increased exponentially; currently there are 5-6 million seriously disabled children and over 2 million minors left alone, orphaned, or forcibly separated from their parents because of the ongoing conflicts. If this is not a holocaust, what else would you call it?!