Faces of Iraq


On a trip to Iraq nearly three years ago, Alan Pogue met a young girl who will haunt him the rest of his life. Her name, he later discovered, was Isra Abdul Amir. On the morning of January 25, 1999, Isra was on her way home from school in a village near Basra in southern Iraq, when she was severely injured in a bombing raid conducted by the U.S. military. She lost her right arm, suffered chest and abdominal wounds, and a metal fragment was lodged in her skull; she was nine years old and right-handed. Last December, Pogue returned to Iraq with the photograph of Isra that he had taken during his last trip. He was determined to find Isra and her family–and he did. He also found poets, artists, jazz pianists, priests, nuns, doctors, nurses, sales clerks, janitors–and still more mothers and fathers of children injured by bombs or suffering from leukemia related to depleted uranium ammunition.

Among those he met was the woman whose portrait appears on the cover of this issue. In her village she is known as “Um Hider,” mother of Hider. Her son Hider was killed in the same 1999 bombing that injured Isra; another son, Moustafa, was severely injured.

For many Americans, the words “Iraq” and “Iraqi” have been stripped of all meaning save one: Saddam Hussein. But whenever Alan Pogue talks about Iraq, he reminds you that the country has a population of about 23 million people–roughly the same as the population of the state of Texas. They are not “collateral damage.” They are the faces of Iraq.

For more information about Isra and the campaign to bring her and Moustafa to the United States for medical treatment, see http://www.nomorevictims.org –B.B.

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Published at 12:00 am CST