Wednesday, April 05, 2006

From The Mouth of a Babe

A few weeks ago the folks at WBAI (New York) took the time to interview an eight-year old Iraqi boy who lost his sight and an arm when he was hit by a tank shell.

We focus upon this story because highwayscribery is dedicated to the metaphorical little girl playing with her cat in the courtyard of building in a city marked for war. Our concern is for those “insignificant” lives shattered by the “vision” of dangerous people like the one presently leading the United States, those battered by the broad strokes brush of history.

For highwayscribery, the effect of the war on civilians is the issue. Yet the deaths of Iraqis are reported as if they were ants rather than human beings. We rant for them, but when they can speak for themselves, give way.

The interview was done by Deepa Fernandes (that's her with Ahmed), who does a morning show, “Wake Up Call.” Deepa is but another cool and groovy cousin the scribe picked up through marriage (“Gitmo Girl or Lady Lawyer in Yemen,” March 13) .

chat with young Ahmed Sharif can be found if you scroll down to the March 13 post and click “listen now.” The interview is about 20 minutes into the show.

the highway scribe, however, will provide a rough transcript for your reading:

What happened?

“I was coming back from school, walking home with a friend when a tank shell hit me and I woke up in the hospital.”

What do you remember of the time after you woke up in the hospital?

“I didn’t know what was happening and was scared.”

(To Ahmed’s father) How did you find out?

“We were at home preparing to break Ramadan fast (around 5 p.m.) and all of a sudden we heard a big bang that was the tank shell and the neighbors came and told us it was Ahmed and we had to take him to the hospital.”

Is it something you had feared as a parent?

“Everyone has the fear for everyone else in the society. All the people of Iraq are afraid to go out.”

How do you go about your daily life after what happened to Ahmed?

“Of course our hearts are broken. All of us. We’re all suffering psychologically from that event, adding the problem of the war, there’s no work, we have no money. We’re having a hard time paying the rent at the place we’re staying.”

Ahmed you woke up and you couldn’t see and you were missing an arm. Are you able to go out and play with your friends, or how different is your life for you?

“There is no play. Nothing.”

What’s it like to not be able to see?

“It makes me almost desperate. I can’t do anything without being able to see.”

At this point, Elisa Montante spoke a bit about the boy’s situation and that of other Iraqi children. Montante is the founder of Global Medical Relief Fund - the group that brought Ahmed and his father to the U.S. for medical treatment.

“I started by helping a Bosnian child that had lost two arms and a leg, who had written his U.N. Ambassador for help. I started the foundation after that. We’ve helped 50 children since. Ahmed is just a product of what is happening in Iraq.

Can you talk about the injuries being sustained and what medical help is available?

“Practically nothing. I get requests from the military. There are so many children, civilians too, and there’s a lack of help NonGovernmental Organizations don’t want to go to Iraq. Ahmed’s request came to me and when I saw the situation I needed to reach out. I found a wonderful doctor at Colombia Presbyterian.”

Have there been any moves in general from American aid institutions or from the military to help those they inflict injury upon?

“No. I’ve helped eight Iraqi children so far. There is no follow-up. Children lose their homes and that’s it - they lose their homes. The situation for Ahmed is so horrible that I’m trying to keep him here. There’s no school for the blind and housing is difficult. His family, fleeing for a safer place, had a car accident and his brother died and Ahmed lost his spleen. He has to be on medication the rest of his life. I’m trying to enroll him in a school for the blind and by the grace of God keep him here.”

(To his father) What do you wish for your son?

“I’m asking God to help us especially with eyesight since he has to have attention 24 hours.”

Do you have anger for the U.S. being in Iraq?

“I say, ‘Thank you for taking Saddam out, now let us live a life’.”

Have your lives gotten worse?

“The current situation is dire. The main thing everyone I talk to wants is for the U.S. to leave now.”

Ahmed what would you like to do while you’re here?

“Go to the hospital to see if I can have eyesight.”

Do you want to go back to Iraq?



Other charming byproducts of the ghastly war against a phantom phenomenon involve cellist Yo Yo Ma testifying about how restrictive legislation always sounds great until the restrictions set in.

The upshot of the piece is that post 9/11 visa requirements enacted, along with the Patriot Act, in a moment of national hysteria, is impoverishing us in ways unrelated to the wasteful and direct expenditures for the war in Iraq.

The article is written by “L.A. Daily News” Washington Bureau reporter
Lisa Friedman.

It reads, in part, “With a growing number of foreign artists cancelling their U.S. performances – last week Britain’s Halle Orchestra called of its American tour citing prohibitive visa fees and requirements – Ma said America is in danger of losing meaningful cultural exchanges.”

The Halle Orchestra. You don’t want them getting in.

Yo Yo Ma told the House Government Reform Committee on Tuesday that, “Bringing foreign musicians to this country and sending our performers to visit them is crucial, but the high cost and lengthy timeline make these programs difficult to execute.”

Every visa applicant, under current rules, must be interviewed in person and surrender “biometric” data like fingerprints.

Welcome, maestro, to the Athens of the late modern world.

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