Mahmoud Rafid, Iraq, “I have to keep working despite being sexually abused

Mahmoud Rafid, 13, says he is afraid to go on selling goods on the streets of Baghdad after being sexually harassed and abused
Photo: Afif Sarhan/IRIN


June 2007 (IRIN)

BAGHDAD, Mahmoud Rafid, 13, says he is afraid to go on selling goods on the streets of Baghdad, after being sexually harassed and abused.

He lost his father a year ago and his mother has cancer so Mahmoud, his two sisters, 14 and 11, and brother, 9, had to find ways of feeding themselves. After selling many of their possessions to raise money, they can now be seen at traffic lights selling chocolates, newspapers and pens.

“My mother is very sick and if we lose her our situation is going to be even worse. We were all forced to leave our school to help boost our household income but the situation is dangerous and sometimes I have the impression that one day I won’t return home.

“My sisters are the ones who suffer most. There are many very bad men in Baghdad who want to do bad things to them. They stay near me when we are working and I always carry a knife with me to defend them in case someone wants to sexually abuse them. I have suffered that, and don’t want this to happen to them too.

“I have to keep working to help my family despite being [sexually] abused. Our relatives have turned their back on us and my father didn’t leave us enough money.

“My mother stays at home waiting for us, crying, desperate and afraid that something might happen to us on the streets. Her cancer is developing fast and if she dies we will have to rely on ourselves and maybe we’ll have to sleep on the streets.

“I miss the time I was at school and if I had the opportunity to go back I would just grab it. I was a good student, with good marks and many friends. But now even my friends have abandoned us because we work the streets. Their families think we aren’t good company for them.

“Many times people come to us offering money and food in return for us selling drugs, but we never agree to do it. My brother tried drugs twice and got very sick. We couldn’t do anything. Thank God, after my mother took good care of him he gave up this bad thing.

“I hope one day we can have a good and safe life again. I would like to see my brother at school again and eat a nice piece of meat. But until this happens, we will keep working, trying to afford some food for my mother in her last days.”
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