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Turtles Can Fly: A Glimpse into the Reality

Set in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraq-Turkey border, the film gives us a glance into the lack of guidance and vulnerability of children displaced by conflict. In the hopes of bringing an end to Saddam Hussein's regime, the refugee camp residents await the US invasion. However, before the invasion occurs, the audience gets a peek into the lives of orphaned refugee children, led by their de facto leader Soran (nicknamed Satellite). As a 13-year-old who fixes antennae of the refugee camp, Satellite assigns odd jobs to the children. He supervises them as they clear the land mines in the vicinity of the camp and later sells them for the sake of their survival. In another scene in the latter half of the film, Satellite is seen teaching children how to use weapons for their defense. Throughout the movie, I found myself admiring Satellite's bravery, resilience, and resourcefulness in the face of hardships. However, I couldn't help but think about the difference a makeshift school would have made in the lives of the orphaned children.

Clearing out landmines is a dangerous affair, as depicted by several limbless children in Satellite's group. Moreover, the children only seem to derive a sense of direction and authority from their 13-year old leader.

Similarly, The film also tells us the story of a girl named Agrin, who, along with two of her brothers, arrives at the refugee camp. Their parents were killed by an attack from Iraqi forces, leaving the three children orphaned and the elder brother limbless. Agrin seems to have a zombie-like demeanor throughout the movie, utterly disinterested in the world around her. One would conclude that it was the result of losing her parents. However, horrid details are later revealed. Not only did Agrin lose her parents on the night attack, but the Iraqi soldiers also gang-raped her. The younger brother was, in fact, her son. Later, Agrin kills her son and commits suicide.

In one of UNICEF's podcasts, "Beyond School Books," education leaders emphasized how education continuity should be seen as an urgent matter in areas marked by violent conflicts. This movie helped me understand the reasons behind this notion. Children lose their families during violent crises, and they need someone to help ease the pain and eventually come out of the trauma. Inability to find the necessary support can lead to further loss, as depicted by Agrin's suicide. Moreover, orphaned children require guidance to help them guide through difficult times. Adult support and supervision become necessary. Otherwise, children may resort to a dangerous mode of survival. Considering all of this, why then is education least prioritized during conflicts? Instead of viewing continuity of education merely as continuity of learning mathematics and science, policymakers and governments need to consider it a center of well-being for the traumatized children. Throughout the movie, I kept wondering about the difference a single teacher and a single classroom would have made in the experiences of the conflict-affected children.

To conclude, anyone curious about the ground realities of conflict-ridden areas should take out time to watch this movie. It will leave you numb, inspired, and most importantly, it will leave you food for thought.

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