Publishing children’s books is changing in Iraq. Yet the goal remains molding young minds. It’s just a different mold. The Christian Science Monitor reports from Iraqi Children’s Cultural House, which publishes children’s books and magazines:
The issue of Muzmar that coincided with the 2002 presidential referendum may be the most extreme example of the youth-oriented propaganda machine at work. The cover features a drawing of smiling children holding a sign that says “Yes, Yes to Daddy Saddam!” while their parents vote in the foreground. Inside are a biography of Hussein, an article describing the “1.5 million love letters” written to the president by the Iraqi people, and a two-page testimonial from Cultural House employees recalling their own joyous voting experiences.
“The work of the writers was forced in this direction,” says veteran children’s writer Muhammed Jabar Hassan. “The previous production was geared toward mobilizing and militarizing the mind of the child to serve the regime.”
As for the actual consumers of the Cultural House’s product – the children of Iraq – it’s unclear just what kind of long-lasting effect this youth propaganda had on them.
Ava Nadir, a former United Nations staff member, recalls her entire high school class being brought out into the streets to cheer for Hussein one day. Despite being raised in an anti-Hussein household, she found herself cheering and clapping along with her classmates as the presidential convoy passed.
Still, she doesn’t believe that all the “Daddy Saddam” stuff produced generations of brainwashed kids.
Ms. Nadir says the real effect was to teach Iraqi children from a very young age how to fake loyalty while hiding their true feelings.
“That’s why in the Iraqi personality there is no transparency,” she says. “You live two lives. One at home where you can talk – and maybe sometimes you cannot even talk – and a different life when you go out. You have to wear a different mask.”
The Cultural House’s first post-Saddam book, “Nur and the Rainbow,” promotes unity among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and Turkmen.