Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is Iraq losing it's youth?

Elizabeth Ferris and Navtej Dhillon wrote an interesting piece in The Guardian yesterday that explores the demographic effects of the Iraqi refugee crisis. Here's an excerpt from the article, entitled "Iraq's Missing Generation":

Youth, not oil, is Iraq's most precious asset in building a stable and prosperous future. In 2002, before the US invasion, around 60% of Iraq's population was under the age of 30 – many with high school and university education. Today, too many of those young people are among the 2.2 million Iraqi refugees living in countries such as Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

As Iraq takes important steps towards national reconciliation and economic development, no one is paying attention to young Iraqi refugees. Their plight is largely portrayed through a sectarian lens. But when the focus shifts to the age of those uprooted, it is clear that a large number are young men and women, struggling with displacement at the prime of their life. Rather than building their future careers and families, their plans are on hold and their hopes are in limbo.

Indeed, many of the Iraqis on Kirk Johnson's list are young, educated people in their 20's and 30's. In the face of death threats from radical militias, these Iraqis often have no choice but to flee the country, but questions remain about how Iraq's "brain drain" will affect the long-term stability of the country and it's capacity to rebuild. Is Iraq in danger of becoming another failed state like Afghanistan?

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