Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Story of Saleh Khalaf

I've been interning here at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) since late January, and the more I learn about EPIC's mission and work, the more excited I am about being part of the team. The organization has consistently worked to reduce suffering and conflict in Iraq since 1998, regardless of how bad the situation has become.

As EPIC's director tells us, it’s not just about ending the war. Our mission is also about protecting innocent civilians caught up in the conflict, and addressing those harmed by it, which brings me to the following story:

On October 10, 2003 a small Iraqi boy in Nasiriya was walking home from school when he spotted something shiny. Nine-year-old Saleh Khalaf picked up what he thought was a ball. His older brother Dia shouted, "Don't move, don't move!" and Saleh began to cry. Dia ran to Saleh to protect him, but he was too late. The bomb exploded, tearing into Saleh's abdomen, taking off his right hand and most of his left, and sending shrapnel into his left eye. Dia himself was killed.

Without immediate medical attention Saleh's mother Hadia and father Raheem knew they would lose their younger son too. But public hospitals were short on supplies. So Raheem rushed Saleh to the Americans at Tallil Air Base near Nasiriya. There the surgeon on duty was so impressed by Saleh's determination to live that he treated him despite overwhelming odds against his survival.

This marked the beginning of an international mission of mercy that eventually brought Saleh to Children's Hospital in Oakland. Over the past two years Saleh has undergone more than 30 surgeries and survived several close calls, earning him the nickname "Lion Heart." Today, Raheem, Hadia, and their four surviving children live in Oakland, where Saleh receives medical care.
To read the Pulitzer-prize winning San Francisco Chronicle series on Saleh, go here.

In 2005, EPIC Board Member Zaid Albanna sat down with Saleh's family to learn more about the hardships they've endured, and the community that has rallied to support them. The indomitable spirit of this young boy called "Lion Heart" and the international effort that saved his life inspired EPIC to contact our friends at the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC).

Right now, EPIC is partnering with CIVIC to support the passage of the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S. 594). Introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Bernie Sanders (VT), and Barbara Mikulski (MD) and co-sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (MA), Sherrod Brown (OH) and Maria Cantwell (WA), this bill would limit the use, sale and transfer of these deadly weapons to protect civilian lives. If you don't see your Senators listed above, then they need to hear from you! Ask your Senators to co-sponsor the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S. 594).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saleh's story is horrible. I saw the pictures that Deanne Fitzmaurice took of him and his family and immediately started to cry. It was heartwrenching to see what Saleh goes through everyday. It was especially horrible to see that the war that we're fighting in Iraq and other countries, is affecting the children. They will be permanently scarred, physically or mentally, for the rest of their lives and will never forget the horrors that they see. I can't imagine the things they see & am blessed not to. I am doing all I can to help them: sending money, telling other people to support them and hope that one day this war will be finished. Also, that the US will leave them alone & they can begin to rebuild their country, on their own.

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