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    War thru the eyes of Chechen childeren -

    War thru the eyes of Chechen childeren

    War is hard on kids. In Chechnya thousand of childeren huddled in freezing and dark basements for months, while Russian warplanes systemetically reduced the capital Grozny ro rubble.

    There was no water, electricity or food: only constant explosions. In the refugee camps in Ingushetia, many children suffered extreme cold throughout the winter and start to cry when the warplanes fly over on their bombing missions to Chechnya. 

    Many children have become orphans, and others have become direct victims.  In one hospital, I met a five-year-old girl, the only survivor in her family, thrashing around in her bed from the shrapnel wounds which had become infected with gangrene.  In the next room was a wounded father, who recounted to me how his younger daughter had died in his arms from an exploding bomb. 

    One day, while I was interviewing refugees in Ingushetia, a beautiful little girl came up to me and asked me shyly in English: "Hello, what is your name?"  She knew very little English, so I decided to give her some English language tapes.  The next day, I saw her mother, who told me that Maryam had stayed up the whole night listening to the tape.  I was leaving a few days later, and Maryam wrote me a letter in Russian, telling me how much she missed her school: 

    All these wars fell hard on my studies.  The school year started very well.  I was attending school, and was fond of music and fond of English.  But one day the war crossed it all out. We became refugees in Ingushetia.  I am missing my school year.... 
         Peter, when you are in America, please ask all children to write letters to Putin to stop the war in Chechnya and not to kill civilians, especially children.  During the first war, I spent 20 days in the cellar with my parents.  In fact, it is not as romantic as it appears to be in the action movies.  Our house was hit by a bomb.

    The impact of the war goes beyond the terror of the bombing and the immediate brutality of the conflict. Most of the children living in the squalid refugee camps in Ingushetia are not attending school, once again interrupting their education and limiting their future.  They have known little but war in their young lives, and are desperate for something different. 

    he following drawings were drawn by Chechen children living in the refugee camps in Ingushetia.  Their classroom is in a tent, and they were asked to draw  "What I have seen in the war in Chechnya."  Better than any words, the drawings show the deeply traumatic impact of the conflict on the children of  Chechnya.  They draw of the bombardment of Grozny, the battles in the streets, death, chaos, and destruction, and of their new lives as refugees in Ingushetia.

    Human Right Watch / 1999 - 2000

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