In 2004, I accompanied American playwright and dear friend, Eric McAfee, to Baghdad to document his collaborative theater project, which led us to visit several refugee camps in town.
Many Iraqi families displaced by the war found shelter in abandoned and damaged facilities in the area. The camps weren’t official refugee camps maintained by NGOs or the like. The authorities considered the camp residents squatters, but it was a home for many left homeless by war.
At the camps I was able to put a human face to the war, and I realized how many of the residents were children. While middle and upper class kids in America grow up playing in the relative safety of schools, backyards, and playgrounds, these Iraqi children played among the rubble in unsafe and unsanitary conditions—while running the risk of witnessing or experiencing unthinkable violence.
I’m revisiting this work because I find it as relevant today as it was then. For America, the 21st century has been one of endless war, which should be a reminder of how little things have changed—and how much more must still be done to achieve peace and justice at home and abroad.