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The Ako restaurant, in central Erbil is known for its kebabs. It has a steady stream of daily customers, and the food is prepared and served by young men, mostly Syrian refugees. Khaled, 16, and Shindar, 13, both work here, along with their 18-year old brother Salam.

“It’s very painful, I really want to finish school and become a teacher or something useful, but I have to work 12 hours a day to pay the rent,” Khaled says.

The eight-member family was forced to leave Syria after their home in Damascus was bombed. “The bullets and bombs were too much. It was very noisy. We were afraid,” Shindar says. There are six children in the family and none is in school. The future for these two young men is uncertain. Right now their only wish is to go home. In the meantime, they work.

©UNICEF/Iraq-2013/Noorani

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