The fields have lost the joy of sunlight and the fresh green trees no longer cast shadows on friendly animals. 
Children’s drawing books are empty of clever rabbits, friendly bears, smiling donkeys or colourful parrots. The children have left the peaceful company of animals and nature and their bright colours no longer mix together to form a merciful and dream-like world. No longer do we see a rainbow running through the clear blue sky or colourful flowers saturating a green field under a tender spring sun.

 

The fields have lost the joy of sunlight and the fresh green trees no longer cast shadows on friendly animals. 
Children’s drawing books are empty of clever rabbits, friendly bears, smiling donkeys or colourful parrots. The children have left the peaceful company of animals and nature and their bright colours no longer mix together to form a merciful and dream-like world. No longer do we see a rainbow running through the clear blue sky or colourful flowers saturating a green field under a tender spring sun.

 

Suddenly, all the beauty children pour into their drawing books have disappeared, and have been replaced by the ugliness of fighter jets, tanks and missiles and the overwhelming grey colour of smoke wafting from burning houses. Men with guns firing madly in the air now roam the streets in the towns that children draw. No hope for life, only waste and destruction – this is the imagination of children who live with war.

 

This is a small part of the picture, a snapshot of the images that innocent children have recorded in their memories of the Libyan war, which has been raging for five years, especially since the war started to move closer to homes and schools and playgrounds where these children grow up … since the NATO air crafts and war ships started battering Libyan cities and villages.

 

The capital Tripoli has had the biggest share of air and navy bombardment, when military and security points in civilian areas were targeted with a flow of large size missiles and bombs. Moreover, the city has also witnessed grinding gun battles within its crowded neighbourhoods. 

At the same time, the entire war was on the media rooting itself further in the emotional memory of the children who could not be protected from the graphic scenes of horror: massacres, beheadings, mutilation and other horrific bloody scenes have sent a collective chill up the spines of almost every child in Libya.

 

How did the Libyan state institutions, like the Ministry of Education, Health, Social Affairs, Culture, Media and Endowments, respond to this tragedy? And what are the policies and plans put in place to treat young war victims, those who have not yet developed the mental ability to handle the open destruction and the wild chaos that have shattered their view on life?

 

Unfortunately, due to political struggles and increasing armed conflicts, the state is unable of provide any meaningful help. Civil society organizations are not better off – they are weak and confused and unable to take action to save what can be saved.

 

A while ago, a friend of mine from Tripoli told me that in 2011, his five-year-old son was mentally sound and tender and full of joy and he used to play a lot and draw joyful and colourful creatures. However, when the war machine started getting closer and closer to their home, everything began to change.

 

Since the first days of the uprising in February 2011, they began to hear echos of shells and gunfire when human rights activists gathered in front of the court and were dispersed with live bullets and tear gas by security forces. Back then, some of the fleeing protesters hid in the building where my friend lives.

 

But problems grew worse when NATO aircraft and war ships started bombing the headquarters of the military intelligence a couple hundred metres away from their house. The first bomb that exploded there was so massive that the windows were blasted open and a cloud of smoke and dust smelling of calcium and gunpowder filled the air.

 

At that moment, my friend ran to his child who was screaming in panic and held his child, who was coiled up in a foetus position. The night passed but the traumatized child was not the same afterwards.

 

For two years after that night, the child had trouble sleeping at night. He would sit in his bed awake the whole night waiting for the sunbeams to come through the window. His behaviour changed dramatically, he grew fearful of any unexpected sound, like a knock on the door or a door slam. He also gradually became more nervous and aggressive and the games he played (real and video games) changed – they became more violent.

 

The boy started to like horror movies and found graphic footage on TV. Likewise, his drawing book began to change to imitate images of conflict. He now draws aircrafts throwing bombs and figures of fighters and tanks and fire coming out of destroyed buildings.

 

In response, the family began to pay more attention to the child: they listened carefully to his stories and complaints, and started taking him out on picnics. They worked hard to keep the sound of music at home along with providing him with books suitable to his age and rewarding him for every story that he read or rewrote. At the same time, they found tricks and ways to replace his toys and games with peaceful alternatives. They also repainted his room and refurnished it with paintings of garden and lovely pets. Gradually, he grew less aggressive and his stressful fits became less frequent and less acute than before.

 

But after five years of countless atrocious acts and mad conflicts many children in Libya and other war torn Arab countries have lost their innocent childhoods. Will the war monsters from their drawing books be again replaced by the colour and joy of youth?