Since declaring victory over the Islamic State late last year, Iraq has grappled with a host of issues emanating from the drawn-out war to uproot the militant group: billions of dollars in damage to cities and towns, more than a million people still displaced and millions more struggling to rebuild their lives.
But there is also other, less visible trauma resulting from the battles. In orphanages in Baghdad and Mosul, which was the Islamic State’s capital in Iraq, children born to both foreign and local fighters are learning to cope with abandonment and reentry into a society they can hardly understand.
These vulnerable victims, photographed by Maya Alleruzzo of the Associated Press, come from wrenching backgrounds: Some were brought to Iraq from Europe and Asia by parents eager to join the Islamic State and have since died. Others were local children simply left behind. Some were the products of rape, an atrocity frequently committed by Islamic State fighters.
The children are at risk of being forgotten as governments in Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East have either refused or dragged out the process to repatriate them.
Some of the children outwardly bear the mental and emotional scars of being raised by the Islamist militants, who embraced an austere and extreme interpretation of Islam.
Abeer al-Chalabi, a government official in Baghdad who manages orphanages, told the Associated Press during a visit to one that some children born to foreign fighters showed traces of the radical upbringing.
"A 5-year-old boy, she said, refused to shake her hand because she’s a woman. A 7-year-old boy asked for a knife to show a friend how to behead a doll,” according to the AP.
“We have slowly changed their ideas and the way they think,” Chalabi told the AP.
The AP said it found the orphanages in good condition and staffed by attentive people who provided “plenty of cuddles” and “left no baby to cry.”