The Street Orphans Of Baghdad

strassmann - kid in chair
CBS
Orphans like Fatema, selling incense for pennies, aren't hard to find on Baghdad's streets. At 11 years old, dodging cars, she's barely more than a beggar, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

"We're orphans," Fatema says.

Why don't they go to school?

"Because we need the money," she says.

Baghdad has thousands of orphans — no one knows the exact number. There are too many for the eight orphanages in Iraq's capital city. Some facilities crowd 10 kids to a small bedroom.

Other than the orphanages, will anyone take these children?

"No," says Quammer al-Janni, who coordinates orphan programs for the Red Crescent, the Arab Red Cross.

The Iraqi government does little to help. In Iraqi culture, orphans are mostly scorned — and seldom adopted.

They're scared. Many of them are angry — and more violent than other kids.

"I think I am going to cry," Quammer says. "Because I have nothing to do for them. I have nothing to say for them."

Adults who work with orphans here are scared for them — and for Iraq. They say, "Don't forget Saddam Hussein was raised as an orphan."

The last time Fahad saw his parents, militiamen were taking them to their death. A Sunni Muslim, he won't play with Shia children.

Another child Strassmann met, Ayaat, is a Shia, who says she can't live with Sunnis.

This is how it begins.

To survive, Mushtaq quit school. He learns on the street, selling perfume and gum to strangers.

In faces like his, Quammer sees Iraq's real worry — its next generation of insurgents and terrorists. That's why she spends six days a week helping orphans; she saves only Saturdays for her own kids.

"There is no future for any Iraqi people. Not just for the orphan babies, for all the Iraqi people," she said. "We don't have any future."

Ask Fatema about her future. It's simply survival.