Baghdad

Appointment in Samarra

A merchant of Baghdad was sipping tea in his garden when his servant ran up to him, breathless and trembling.
“Master,” he cried. “I have just seen Death in your garden. She pointed at me with such a ghastly stare that I knew she had come for me.”
“So you have seen Death,” the merchant replied, “as each man must. I understand your alarm.”
“I must leave Baghdad and go far away from Death. I have a brother in Samarra. I will go there tonight, Master, and escape my fate.”
“Then take my swiftest horse, and go with my blessing.”
As the hoofbeats of the fleeing servant faded in his ears, the merchant, curious, walked through his gardens to confront Death.
“My servant has done no harm. Why do you disturb him with your ghastly stare?”
Death smiled. “I did not mean to. I was merely surprised to see him in Baghdad when I have an appointment with him this evening, at his brother’s house in Samarra.”

old illustration from last year
published in Cricket magazine

there have been 2 car bomb explosions in baghdad, iraq. 24 people have been killed from an explosion outside a popular ice cream parlour and 12 killed from another explosion in a busy district (near al Shahada bridge). please keep these innocent souls in your prayers as they’re often forgotten by western media

IRAQ. Baghdad governorate. Baghdad. April 14, 2003. Twelve-year-old Ali Abbas, then treated at the Baghdad Hospital, has lost both arms during the American bombing of the city and has sustained serious burns over his body.

Ali Abbas still remembers the day his childhood changed forever, however much he might wish to forget. It was March 30, 2003. He was 12, “Just a little kid, enjoying my life, going to school, playing football, with lots of friends…”

He had fallen asleep with [pregnant] mum Azhar, dad Ismaeel, and ten-year-old brother Abbas all sleeping reassuringly close to him in the same room. Even now he doesn’t know why the Americans fired the missile. Their home, on the southern fringe of Baghdad, wasn’t near any sort of military base.

“We were farmers. There were cows and sheep outside. They should have seen what was down there. I was woken up by this big noise. All the house collapsed on us. My home was on fire. Then I heard the screaming.”

It was his mum and dad.

“I heard them screaming. Then after a couple of minutes, the screaming stopped. They were gone.”

“I was burning,” he continues. “My arms were basically roasted. After maybe 20 minutes, my neighbour came to try to pull me out of the rubble. He didn’t realise how badly I had been burned. So when he tried to pull me by my left hand, it came off.”

His mother, father, and little brother were dead. So too were 13 other members of his family. Both Ali’s arms had to be amputated. He had suffered burns to 60 per cent of his body. The doctors doubted he would survive.

And yet, he says, “I was lucky. There are thousands like me in Iraq. Or even worse than me. So many innocent people killed.”

His first stroke of “luck” came in the form of a hospital nurse, Karem.

“All the doctors were running away, but he stayed. He brought me food, paid for cream and bandages for my burns with his own money.”

Then the Western journalists came. Of all the images flooding in from Iraq, it was his photo and not that of another child that caught the eye of the picture editors, and the imagination of the British public. There was an outpouring of sympathy, a successful campaign to bring “Orphan Ali” to the UK for proper treatment.

At one charity event, he even got to meet Tony Blair.

“His wife did most of the talking. I just said ‘Hi’. I didn’t know much then. I think I was about 14, still a kid.”

He’s not a kid any more. Ali Abbas is a 25-year-old man now. And on the eve of Sir John Chilcot finally delivering his report into the Iraq War [in 2016], Mr Abbas knows exactly what he would want to ask Tony Blair.

“I would want to know from him whether he regrets what he has done. I would want him to tell me why he did it.” [x]

Photograph: Jerome Sessini/Magnum Photos

4

Three days ago, ISIS attacked this ice cream store in Baghdad with a car bomb. 12 people were killed, and another 24 were wounded. ISIS stated that they targeted these people for being “Shi'a infidels”.

Three days after the attack, the ice cream store has been restored and has reopened. That is the strength and the resilience of the Iraqi people.