Child rapes, killings terrify parents in Iraq

Child rapes

``I cannot rest or sleep while these criminals are still eating, drinking and sleeping in prison. They should be executed immediately,'' said Abeer's father, Ali Abid, a 30-year-old construction worker and father of four other daughters. ``Iraq has become like a jungle where monsters maul the bodies of the poor people.''

Reports of the two cases have sent a wave of fear through the streets of Basra.

Firas Khudier, 42, a businessman in Zubair, stopped sending his daughter Shahad to kindergarten out of fear she could be abducted. In the meantime, he has hired a taxi driven by a trusted relative to take his two older children to school even though it is nearby.

Sharif, a father of four, said he and his wife have begun escorting their children to school and back, and are keeping a closer eye on them even when they play just outside the house. Most parents in Basra are now doing the same, he added.

``They keep ... insisting on going out to play with their friends, but we have to remind them of the horrific story of the two poor girls,'' Sharif said.

In an attempt to calm public opinion, security forces have started deploying more police patrols, particularly near schools.

Some officials blame a rise in drug use for the crimes. Iraq's Interior Ministry recently cited the cases in calling on Iraqis to support an anti-narcotics campaign. Al-Ibadi said all of those arrested in the two cases are addicts who were under the influence at the time of the crimes.

Fawzia A. al-Attia, a sociologist at Baghdad University, said Iraq's decades of war and economic hardship also likely played a role.

``All these woes changed the social value system, weakened the role of the family and negatively influenced personality development,'' she said. ``Young people in particular have started to feel the emptiness and boredom of unemployment, and (are increasingly disappointed) with religious and political institutions.''

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