Friday, March 30, 2007

My presentation at University of Toronto

United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada)
50th Anniversary of UN Peacekeeping

Children and War

My name is Behzad Pilehvar. I was born in the middle of a devastating war between Iran and Iraq. My parents opposed against the war and dictatorship in Iran. They both were arrested when I was 2. The Guards took me inside the jail along with my parents. I spent around a year and a half in jail. They first released me and delivered me to my grand-father. A year later, they released my mother and after 2 years my father was released. The war was continuing. At the age of 5 I witnessed bombardments of Iraqi planes an soon after Saddam Hussein used rockets to hit Iranian cities, especially the capital where we were living. There was a shelter in our school. I never forget the horror I felt when there was alarming sound calling to leave classes and rush to shelter. I lost some of my classmates, among them Mohammad who was my play-mate as well. The war made many children orphans. Every day children bring pictures of their father who had been killed in the war-front. I saw may children, even below the age 8 who had left the school to work and help their families financially. I had lost two cousins who were killed in the war.

Both the Iranian and Iraqi governments used religion to drag people to war. In our school they repeatedly mentioned that they were fighting for God and Islam. They took children from the age of 10 as volunteer to fight in the war-zones. They were used as suicide bombers and hundreds of them were used to clear the minefields. They told children that they should be happy if they got killed because death would open the gate of paradise to them. According to a document published by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. The government of Iran officially recruited 15-year-old children to fight in a civil war against Kurds who were called non-believers because belonged to the Sunni sect of Islam. The Iranian government belongs to the Shia sect. The war, according to the Iranian regime was Jihan – a kind of holy war for the victory of Islam, although it was against another Moslem country.

The war was ended in 1988 when I was 7. Before ending the war, the Iranian leader, Ayatollh Khomeini ordered the massacre of between 5 to 7 thousands political prisoners, among them some of our relatives and family friends. I never forget my friend Majeed who was 6 and they executed his father in his presence. The end of war did not end militarization of the country. They started giving children military training in school. Nobody could say no. I still feel fear when I remember those days. We had to face hunger and poverty because of war. Years after years I witnessed the negative impacts of war. Children of those days are grown up adults. I am one of the them. We still suffer from the after-effects of war. I call upon the whole world to work against the war and for piece, especially for children. Because all war are wars against children.

Children have been killed or made homeless or disabled by war. Still, many governments use them as child-soldiers. The best service to children is the prevention of war. It need lots of work by all of us with the involvement of youth and children themselves.

Have you ever asked yourself why there is war? In my opinion, it is because of global poverty, discrimination and dictatorship. Rich countries should help the poor and United Nation should be more active to make everyone enjoy human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be observed by all countries.

Following are some suggestions:

1. Governments and the UN must use political, economic and legal standards for the protection of children.
2. They must PROTECTION CHILDREN AND YOUTH who are already CAUGHT IN the war. They should give them all sorts of helps especially help for their health and education.
3. It is important to have a program for helping children after the end of the war.
Canada is a country famous for human rights. Our government must do its best to prevent war and help children who have become victims of conflicts. I hope that a day comes that all children enjoy the sweetness of childhood. What happened to me may not happen to anyone in the world.

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