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Terror's Children

Screencap of "Terror’s Children (2003)"

Screencap of "Terror’s Children (2003)"

Question: Regarding the mental health of the children, I did a study on a small group of kids up at the border in 2002, January, and found that 4 out of the 6 Afghan refugee kids were suicidal. Did you come across that kind of despair, with any of the kids you talked to?

Obaid: We personally did not come across any children who were suicidal, per se, but we did find most of the children were very depressed about their lifestyle and they thought that there was no way to end the misery they were going through. And most of them felt that even when they went back to Afghanistan, that they wouldn't have a future. So in some sense, they thought that that was their world. And our car used to go through the refugee camp and most of these children had never even sat in a car before. And I remember the second or third week that we were filming, the young girls requested that we give them a drive in our car. These are the simple things that they look forward to, because in their lives, they feel that they have nothing to look forward to except working and looking after their family.

Zia-Zarifi: The question of mental health in Afghanistan though is of course a huge one and a problem for reconstruction there. This is a deeply traumatized country. I think I have traveled just about everywhere there and most of the young people there have only known really quite savage fighting - quite savage. But to get back to the issue of the title, there was a time before terror was the subject of a war, it was just an emotion. That's at least how I took these children. They have faced a lot of terror in their lives and I cannot try to explain that anymore to an American audience about the responsibility of the United States right now in making sure that the terror in Afghanistan comes to an end. And by that I don't mean just terrorist cells. I mean the fear that the people of Afghanistan face daily.

Bhattacharjee: I think mental health is indeed an issue, particularly for children in Afghanistan. The United Nations estimates that at least 66% of the children have witnessed a violent death, a killing, or some member of their family dying. That's a pretty high rate. In our travels we did find some of the NGOs and some of the mental health doctors working with children there who were-- I am not a doctor to know whether it was clinical depression or suicidal tendencies-- but they were very deeply affected. It was plain to everybody that there was a sense of detachment from everything around. And indeed it is a problem and a problem which needs to be addressed as quickly as possible, if the society is to progress.