Finding Time to Play in a War Zone

Kids meet under the watch of armed guards at new scout campground.

ByABC News
July 5, 2007, 6:21 PM

July 5, 2007 — -- Behind the cement barriers and tanks of Baghdad's Green Zone, American troops help Iraqi Boy and Girl Scouts clear a campground for children who have few opportunities to play outside.

The effort marks a revival of the Scouts in Iraq. The Scouts first arrived in the country in 1921, but after Saddam Hussein turned scouting into a paramilitary training course, the international scouting body kicked Iraq out of the organization.

"They lost an entire generation because scouting was pretty much halted through Saddam's regime," said Lt Col. Roberta Luba.

It is now being revived with the help of American troops. But the kids are in need of playgrounds.

For many of the 150,000 Boy and Girl Scouts outside of the Green Zone in Iraq, mortars, car bombs and stray gunfire make it too dangerous for them to gather in public at all.

Many have nowhere to meet, as the Iraqi army has taken over their camps. And even inside the barricaded Green Zone, Scouts can only gather under armed guard.

But that doesn't seem to bother the kids. ABC News spoke with three young boys who said their parents don't generally let them play outside because of the war, so scouting gives them a rare break.

"We play football, play tennis, basketball," one told ABC News' John Hendren.

Scouting also teaches children to ignore their differences -- such as who is Sunni or Shiite -- an uncommon sentiment these days in Baghdad.

Later this summer, Scouts from all backgrounds will put that creed into action and spend four days at their new campsite.