Statement from Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative to Iraq, on Valentine’s Day

13 February 2019

Media assets: “Iraqi children deserve love, not violence

14 February 2019, Baghdad –Today we celebrate what it means to love and be loved. And no one deserves to be shown that they are loved more than a child. Showing a child love means cherishing them and protecting them from violence.

Here in Iraq, children have been exposed to unimaginable levels of violence over years of sustained conflict and insecurity. And while the war may have subsided, the majority of Iraqi children continue to experience violence inside their homes, schools, and other places that are meant to be safe spaces. According to the 2018 UNICEF-supported Multiple Index Cluster Survey (MICS6), over 80% of all children in Iraq have experienced violent discipline, and almost a third have experienced severe physical punishment, including being slapped on the face, head or ears, and being hit hard and repeatedly.

Violence hinders child development and interrupts his or her learning abilities. It scars a child and leads to low self-esteem and emotional stress. It teaches that violence and aggression are acceptable ways to resolve conflict and disagreements.

Violence sends a message to a child that he or she is not appreciated and is not loved. We asked a child at Hassan Sham Camp for the internally displaced who she loves, and she said “I love my teacher because she’s never screamed at me”. Another said, “I love my mother and father and they love me, that’s why they don’t hit me.”


On this day of love, let’s work together to end violence against children in Iraq.



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