The children of Iraq continue to face grave violations, but recent engagements between the Government of Iraq and the United Nations for the protection of children offer hope for a brighter tomorrow, highlights a new report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq released today. Among those engagements are notably the recent signature and implementation of an action plan between the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the United Nations.

During the reporting period of July 2021 to September 2023, the killing and maiming of children remained the most verified violation with 236 children affected. The use of explosive ordnance and the presence of explosive remnants of war, notably in areas previously under Da’esh’s control, continued to be the leading causes of children killed and maimed, accounting for 65 per cent of the total number of child casualties.

“The scars of the past are impacting the generation of the future. Explosive remnants of war have been and remain a critical issue in Iraq. In most cases, children were harmed by accidentally triggering devices when they picked them up or stepped on them while herding livestock or playing. I encourage the Government with the support of the international community to continue its work around explosive ordnance clearance, mine risk education and victim assistance,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

While in decrease, 76 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified representing the second most prevalent grave violations during the reporting period but no incidents were verified in 2023, indicating a positive step in enabling humanitarians to provide much needed services to children. However, and of concern, is the significant increase of children being recruited and used, notably by the People’s Defence Forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (HPG/PKK). The Special Representative reminds all parties of their obligations to comply with international law and calls on all of them and particularly the HPG/PKK to unconditionally release all children that have been recruited and use.

Despite a decrease, the detention of 668 children on national security-related charges, continue to be a concern. The Government must consider children as victims and therefore continue to take concrete steps to facilitate their release, recovery and community-based reintegration.

Progress on the Protection of Children

During the reporting period, the Government repatriated 3,523 children from Hawl camp in the Syrian Arab Republic to Jad’ah 1 Rehabilitation Center. The Special Representative welcomes the provision by the Government of Iraq of specialized services to repatriated children but reminds that more needs to be done, especially to guarantee those children access to legal documentation. This is critical to access education and further services to benefit from a reintegration within their communities of origin.

The Government of Iraq continued to show its commitment to better address child protection, notably by the signature in March 2023, of an action plan between the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the United Nations. As a result, the Government appointed the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs as focal points to swiftly implement the action plan. The PMF decided also to issue specific command orders, to conduct screening and age assessments within their ranks, while also benefiting from capacity building training sessions from the United Nations on child protection. Furthermore, the PMF established a Human Rights Directorate to monitor child rights related activities.

“I welcome the engagement of the Government with the United Nations and notably the signature of an action plan during my visit in March 2023 and its implementation. This is a strong and critical step to build a better future for the children of Iraq. I remain available to continue supporting the authorities in making sure that every child in Iraq is enjoying the childhood they deserve,’ concluded Virginia Gamba.

Full report

Grave violations against children

TOTAL: 381 grave violations against 289 children

Recruitment and Use: 32 children

Killing and maiming: 236 children (107 killed, 129 maimed)

Rape and other forms of sexual violence: 8 girls

Abductions: 23 children

Attacks on schools and hospitals: 6 attacks (4 schools, 2 hospitals)

Denial of humanitarian access: 76 incidents


For additional information, please contact:

Ariane Lignier, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (

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