Once Upon a Time

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For a generation of Iraqi children, war is all they know. So instead of playing with bikes or balls, they bring their nightmares to life.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

“-Lost in time, over the centuries…

Long ago in a land far, far away

Darkness fell on this distant place…

-My mother had a nightmare, she dreamt that Nizar was bitten by a cat.

-Half of Iraq has already left.

We wish we had left as well.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Woman: “It was one o’ clock in the morning when the Americans broke into our home. We were sleeping in the attic and all of sudden we saw them inside. They pointed a laser at me. There were Americans everywhere. My son Baker was young and he was shaking in fear. Snipers surrounded the house and broke the windows. They took all our gold and money, bankrupting our family. All this happened in this very house. I was terrified for my daughter; they were drunk and could have raped her.

They had already raped many women.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Boy: “They came down from their helicopters and broke into our houses. They broke into our houses at night. They were speaking a foreign language, shushing each other occasionally. The neighbours thought we had been killed. It was completely silent. They knocked on the door but we couldn’t answer. We had to keep quiet, I was absolutely terrified.

The Americans occupied an old tobacco factory in my neighbourhood and set up a base.”

SOUNDBITE [English], US army: “Take your clothes off!”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Boy: “You! Over there! The snipers would often shoot to kill people. They used to kill five or six on the same street.

It saddens us to see people die unjustly It often makes us cry. Why do innocent people have to die? The Americans have brutalized Iraq. They want to take our oil, they want to take everything. They have treated us very badly. They arrested many people and even now there are many innocent people in jail. Others have become refugees. We thank God for the life we have.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Woman: “Since he was a young boy, he wanted to be with The Resistance. We were scared that a helicopter would bomb our home because Baker used to put together a few bottles like an RPG and pointed them at the helicopters. He would gather his friends and make up checkpoints. He was well known in the neighbourhood, a five year old saying he was in the Resistance. Have breakfast first, then you can carry on singing.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Boy: “The Americans have attacked and hurt us. Nobody could go outdoors. Even when we stayed at home they would come and detain us. This is Sadr City. They’re sinners. They’ve ruined people’s lives. I hope God gives them what they deserve. We can’t, only God can. I’ll never forget my father’s love. To be able to call someone “dad” is beautiful.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hany Shacker, Father of Sajjad, War victim: “I’m Hany Shacker Abu Sajjad. Two days before the accident, he had these photos taken at his grandfather’s. It was 11: 30 at night. My father was at home.

I asked him for the car to take Sajjad home. We finished having dinner. My mother wanted to visit my sick grandmother. Sajjad wanted to go with them but I didn’t let him. But my father insisted and Sajjad got changed and was the first to get in the car.

My mother got in afterwards and sat next to him. No, she sat next to granddad

Yes, next to granddad. My mother went to open the car door and the car exploded.

I tried to rescue my father and left Sajjad inside the car. The car was burning up quickly. The neighbours tried to put out the fire. My father died in hospital.They then brought Sajjad in.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Doctor: “Carry on walking, don’t worry. Now turn round. Sajjad has a prosthetic leg below the knee due to and explosive device which went off. As a result he has burns on both his limbs.

Sir, it’s really sore here .OK, we’ll talk about that now. His legs have been deformed by the burns. You can see the problem right here, he needs plastic surgery. The main problem is that he can’t separate his legs here. Lift up, my boy. This area has been badly burnt.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Dr Osama Hasiz: “My name is Dr Osama Hasiz. I work here in this workshop of Baghdad centre for rehabilitation. I supervise the manufacturing of prosthesis and orthodoxies… for the Iraqi patients, civilian patients. Before the war we had mainly the diabetic and car accident patients. That was the main reason for amputation. After the war and the violence… that had been occurring in our country, the cause changed into violence and …bullet injuries, side bombs, the mines…strange objects scattered all around the roads and the fields.” It is a loss, a loss for society and them of course. I cannot imagine them as active patients…unless we make a good prosthesis and rehabilitation for them to bring them back to society as a working force.

Congenital anomaly normally you see them in the south of Iraq and the areas of big battles like Fallujah.

The congenital anomalies are increasing after the war maybe due to exposure to chemicals, radiation. I don’t know exactly what the cause is because this requires a big study…but as long as I’m concerned there is an increase in the congenital anomalies.

-There is an increase in the areas that were heavily bombed?

Yes, of course. Sometimes we can’t do anything for them because the deformity does not include the limbs. In the head, face, internal organs, not precisely the limbs. That’s why cannot do anything for them. Those children; I have to rehabilitate them once again.” “Not only the prosthesis, the psychiatric problem, financial problem. Because in the future they will keep being dependant.””

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Doctor: “No, keep your foot straight. Count to ten: one, two, three… Put your foot back. Well done. You know how to stand up now. Now we’ll learn how to sit down. Let’s go, look at me. OK. Push your body backwards, right? Put each arm on the armrest.

Do you feel alright?

Sometimes this part of my neck hurts and my head too. How about when we’re doing the exercises?

Does your head hurt right now? How do your legs feel? Ok? There’ve been some fairly surreal cases. There was this one boy playing football in the street. As you know the price of fizzy drinks has dropped. People finish their cans and ditch them. There was a can on the ground when he went to fetch the ball. He kicked the can and it exploded. It blew his leg off. Or people sitting calmly at home and all of a sudden a mortar is dropped on them. People driving around and an explosive device blows up. Children are very often affected by cases such as these.

-So, how are you?
Are you ok?

Shall we go? Let’s go to the fun place now, Sajjad. There are indoor and outdoor exercises. These are tools to teach Sajjad how to confront these barriers in the near future. He’ll see these challenges as something normal. Well done, now the left leg.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hany Shacker, Father of Sajjad, War victim: “He was the first grandson in the family. His grandparents loved him very much.I’m the oldest of my brothers and I married young. Whenever I look at Sajjad, I feel guilty as a father. I feel responsible for what happened as I was there. I wasn’t able to save my father’s life nor my son from the flames. So I left Sajjad and tried to take care of my father. I thought Sajjad was replaceable and got my father out of the car. When I returned, the car was in flames and Sajjad inside. I couldn’t reach him.

This boy has lost his future. His life has changed completely. Even at school;

the way he sits, talks, sleeps, interacts. So I advise any father in Iraq or outside to put their children always first. Let’s carry on going up the steps. Well done, carry on like that.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Doctor: “Slowly, no need to rush. Well done, carry on. Well done! Are you tired?
He’s tired.

Do you want some water?

Look at him; he’s drinking like a canary! Do you want some more?”

INTERVIEW [Arabic], Hany Shacker, Father of Sajjad, War victim: “What’s Sajjad’s dream?

You ask him.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

INTERVIEW [Arabic], Sajjad, War Victim: “I want to be a doctor.

-Are you sure you still want to be a doctor?

I was crying when my grandad told me not to. I got changed and got into the car first. My grandma and grandad got in too. But my grandma got out to ask my mother something. She went to get back in and the car exploded. They took me to the hospital. Dad took granddad out of the car. He died in hospital and they put him in fridge. Dad told me not to go with grandad, but I didn’t listen to him.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Abu Mustafa, Poet: “I started my life as a poet in 1972. I was a young man, not even 18. I started to find my path working with other young poets. That’s been my life as a poet up to now.

The whole journey has been filled with suffering Iraqi poetry is born from suffering despite being joyful It’s always born from pain.

That in itself is a sign of sadness. As if we were never reach happiness. A poet once said, “Life granted me joy only after being wounded 100 times” 100 wounds in exchange for one moment of joy.

You don’t choose to be a poet. It’s not a profession or something you can learn.

You’re born with it as a result this pain. Even this poverty is a form of anguish

They arrested my older brother, He told them about me. Are you aware of the tortures they use? They even had a crane that pulled the legs out their sockets.

My left leg is proof of this.”

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Boy: “Abu Mustafa writes poetry for me to sing to. He has taught me how to use my voice. Thanks to him, I have the courage to sing. He’s a generous, friendly man, but poor. He has a family he has to take care of.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_30:00

Conversation [Arabic], between the Boy and Abu Mustafa, The poet:

“Peace be upon you.

How are you, young man?

What are you reading?


And how is it going?

It’s going well.

What have you learnt?

I’ve learnt the poem for the song.

How about the theatre play?

I’ve memorised it too.

Would you like to hear it?

No, let’s start with the song to hear your pitch and see how we’ve progressed.

Can we hear it a bit?

“Be at peace, Iraq, land of prosperity, You’ll be at peace Iraq, once you’re wounds have healed.”

“Don’t lose hope, Happiness awaits you.”

“I want to see you joyous Iraqis, No more tears in your eyes.”

“Those with principles are still standing. We’re safe in our land.”

“If we support terrorism our land will turn its back on us”

Slowly, slowly.

Do it this way, lets continue.

“Don’t speak of the differences between Arabs and Kurds. All of them have fought and triumphed.”

“Erbil took Baghdad under its wing.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Woman: “It saddens Baker to hear other boys call out for their fathers. It makes him think of how he can’t do it himself. I often tell him he’s not the only the one without a father. Three quarters of the Iraqi people are orphans. Most children are orphans. He now goes to a school for orphans.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Boy: “Terrorism killed my father. He was one of Baghdad’s tribal leaders. He was killed on Haifa street. If you lose your parents, even if you leave Iraq, you’ll never be at peace. You’re always thinking that if your mother, father or brother were alive it would be wonderful. Everyone has left, Half of Iraq has gone. I also dream of leaving this place.

If I were the Prime Minister, I’d help the citizens. I’d give the country everything it needed.I’d try to correct everything that’s wrong with Iraq. People want to rest, to have electricity. They’d like to have electric heaters for the winter. That would be great!

Our suffering is endless. Sometimes we have one or two hours of electricity, or half an hour or even just 5 or 10 minutes.

They should provide us with some financial help, work, and salaries. I’d like to go to a country where the lights don’t go out.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ibtisam, Iraqi girl: “My name is Ibtisam, I am 12 years old. My mother used to tell me that going to school is very important because there we can learn to read and write, and make new friends to play with. I wish I could go to school, wake up in the morning, have breakfast, brush my hair, put my bracelets on and go to school.

A lot of times we wake up because of the noise of helicopters flying over our heads. At first we were very afraid of the helicopters because sometimes they came to bomb. I’m not afraid of helicopters anymore because I them everyday.

When I was small, my mother used to brush my hair and help me to put my clothes on.

She would sit outside, brush my hair and tell me stories.

She told me to be obedient and to be a good girl… Now I wake up in the morning and brush my hair alone…

My mother and father are dead now. A bomb killed them and destroyed my house.

After my parents died I went to live with my uncle and my cousins, I was sad because I would think about my mother but in my uncle’s house I could play with my cousins.

I hold my cousin Zahra’s hand most of the time, she is really small and needs help all along the way… I only have one pair of shoes.

They are old now but my uncle says I should keep them and when we grow up he will buy another pair for me… My uncle used to have another house but he told we had to move to Baghdad because he didn’t have a job. Now we live here. My uncle told us that before the war it was the place where Saddam had his planes and soldiers… There’s a place near the dump where soldiers live and sleep.

We don’t see them much, only a couple who are sitting in a high place looking around to see if terrorists are coming to attack us. We wake up every morning at 5 and go to work.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ibtisam, Iraqi girl: “I have to walk for a long, long distance and sometimes it’s hot and we get thirsty… I don’t go to school because we’re a lot of children at my uncle’s home; me, my brothers, and my cousins and we have to help my uncle. We don’t have time to go to school because we have to work and we’re always very tired afterwards.

Me, my brothers and cousins work here in the rubbish dump. We collect cans that people ditch after they’ve drank them. We collect cans of Pepsi, Seven up and others… I drank a soda once and I liked it. It was sweet and cold. One day I want to go to school and learn to read and write so I can find a good job and have a house. I would like to become a teacher. Sometimes my hands get very dirty or they hurt. The dump is really smelly but we have to carry on looking for cans.

When the big cars arrive with the garbage everybody goes running to take the best cans.

There are a lot of women and children looking for cans in the rubbish dump.

They are more and more every day. Sometimes they fight amongst each other.

My uncle says that we can’t eat or drink anything from the dump because we will get ill. I have seen some children working here eating food that they find in the dump. Some of them find pieces of bread; they clean them and take them home.

Children in the dump don’t go to school either because they have to work. Most of them are not from Baghdad, they came from other cities of Iraq because they lost their parents. Others still have their mums and dads but came to Baghdad, because their parents don’t work or because they lost their houses. We have no money to survive, there are no opportunities. Peace be upon you. I remember my mum sometimes, how she used to brush my hair. She would tell me not to walk without my shoes on as I am a girl and I keep my feet looking nice.”

TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ibtisam, Iraqi girl: “My mother used to tell me that I shouldn’t go outside because I could get killed. War is really noisy. My parents were not outside when they got killed, they were at home. So I think that my mother was wrong when she told me that it’s dangerous outdoors. I don’t know how to explain who the Americans are. I know that they come from far away to Iraq and that they had bombs, planes and guns. I saw the Americans in the streets, they were standing with guns, but I couldn’t see their eyes because they had big, black sunglasses.”

Conversation [Arabic], between a young man and some workers (children):

“-I earned ten thousand dinars in 4 days!

-And you?

-15 thousand.

-And you?
-Ten thousand.

-Can I have a look in your sack?

-Can you empty it?

What do you do with all this?

What’s this?

-Are there kids who eat out of the rubbish?

-Are there?


-What do they eat, bread?


-So they eat it?


-Women look for food too?

-Yes, the women do too.

-Do you know which trucks bring the best rubbish?

-It depends on the place

-Where do the trucks come from?

-From Kadissiya and Karrada.

-Is the rubbish from there good?

-No, the rubbish from Zayuna and Mashta is better.

-How many of you don’t go to school?

-I don’t.

Why have you dropped out?

So what’s this?

Stop, stop!

Is it to look for rubbish?

-Do you have any social security or help of any sort?

-No, nothing.

None at all?

So how do you survive?

-Do you just live off the rubbish?

-Yes, we just live of the rubbish we find.

-Do you ever hurt yourselves in the rubbish dump?



-People get poisoned, they cut themselves, they get a temperature.

-Do you mean that they get poisoned and have a fever?


-What do you want to tell us?

-My cousin lost a finger because he cut himself.

Has anybody else had any accidents?

Why does this happen?

The man who runs this dump and everybody else

get money from the government.

But nobody wants to spend anything on us.

As children that you are, what would you like someone to give as a present?

I’d like to have some trainers.

-Who else?

-Look at my foot.

-What’s wrong with it?

-I’ve strained it from the effort.

-So are you worn out when you get home?

-We step on broken glass sometimes.

-Do you ever buy a new pair of sandals?

-No, we get them from the rubbish.

-How about your clothes?

-Where did you get this from?

-From the rubbish.

-How about this?

-From the rubbish.

-Things for your homes too?


-Is everything you’re wearing stuff you’ve found in the rubbish?

-Yes, I got it all from here.

-Show me your clothes, all this you mean?


-Do you always wear clothes you’ve found in the rubbish?


-The sandals too?


Who wants to tell me how to find toys?
I’ll tell you. We see them sometimes and we have to dig to get them out.

We find bags with money sometimes, cigarettes , toys, batteries .

The toys are in bags and sometimes not.

Any cold water we find we drink. Over there, in the rubble.

What do you with any sweets or chocolate you find?

Are you going to help us out?

So do you check the expiry date on the chocolate bars?


-You eat them straight away?


-Do you take them home?


-Is it only you boys who eat them?


What else do you find?

I’ve found toy cars.”

TIME CODE: 45:00_50:00

Conversation [Arabic], between a young man and some workers (children): “But they sell these toys in shops, why don’t you get them from there?

I see them but I don’t have the money to buy them.

They’re very expensive.


Do people throw away a lot of food? Do you find a lot of sweets or other food?

We live off the rubbish.

Let’s see if we find something to eat today.

Long live Iraq!

Do you find water?




Hot or cold food?


Do you find chicken, any meat?

Battul, doctor.

I would like to go to school, Hasan Hamid

Maysun Razzak, I would like to become a sergeant.

Karra Kamel Majid.

I would like to be in the Special Forces.

Sajjad Dajel. I would like to become a traffic policeman.

Ali Kamel, school teacher.

Ali Hussein Karim. I want to become a doctor.

Absi… Abbas, Abbas. I want to become a doctor.

Asad Abbas. I want to become a doctor.

Hussein Mauda. I want to be a doctor.

Mustafá Adnan. I want to become an engineer.

Abbas Mohamad. I want to be a policeman.

Hussein Hamid Ajidi. I would like to go back to school.

Ali Musen. I want to be a teacher.

Ali Gina. I want to finish my studies.

Taka Nuri. I want to be a teacher.

Karrar Abbas. I would like to become a garbage truck driver.


It’s better.

You mean that a garbage truck driver has a better life?


Sajjad Hassan. I want to be a sergeant.

Zain Abdul Hamid.

Do people throw away a lot of food? Do you find a lot of sweets or other food?

We live off the rubbish.

Let’s see if we find something to eat today.

Long live Iraq!

-Do you find water?




-Hot or cold?


Do you find chicken, any meat?

My name is Alaa Katee. I’m a Human Rights activist working for an Iraqi NGO.

Most of the rubbish dump workers are children.

Due to the current economic situation, the main source of income for these children is the rubbish dump.

They get here at six in the morning and leave at four in the afternoon.

They gather as much as they can to sell it and help their families.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown man, Iraqi resident: “This cemetery is on the outskirts of Baghdad It used to be abandoned land. The most common health problems are caused by air pollution and congenital illnesses. Most of the people here work with scrap metal. When the regime collapsed, the military bases were abandoned. People began to take apart the fuselage of planes and tanks to try to sell them. Two years ago, a foreign commission began measuring the radiation levels.

They realised that there was a high index of radiation due to abandoned military machinery that women and children began to take apart.

There’s therefore a direct link between the war and infant mortality and congenital diseases. The rubbish dump is a very dangerous place for children. They employ heavy vehicles like tractors and trucks which occasionally run them over. Not to mention the rubbish and strong smells. There are even children eating from the rubbish, which is extremely worrying. There were even incidents between US troops and children. Some of the children selling in the street or on their way to school would show their hatred to the Americans by throwing stones at them. The Americans would sometimes open fire on them. It pains us to walk through this cemetery; we feel the anguish of the families, mothers, fathers. Many come to adorn the graves with flowers and their children’s toys.”

TIME CODE: 50:00_55:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Iraqi Child, Worker: “We feel much grief and pain. These children were Iraq’s future. If they’d received the necessary medical care, we would have a brighter future ahead of us. Now and then we are lucky enough to fill a whole bag with cans. And then a man comes and buys it from my uncle. With that money my uncle buys wheat and rice for us to eat. My cousins and me found a place with a lot of cans, but my uncle says that those are not good cans because they were for alcohol, and it’s very difficult to sell them. There are times when we find a lot of cans that nobody has opened, and the boys throw them against the rocks. When they smash they make a funny noise, and the liquid inside sprays all over the place.Sometimes we walk for miles and my cousin Bassem faints and falls. My uncle then tells him to go home and have a rest.

My cousin Bassem is sick but I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He goes home to have a rest and after and hour or two he starts work again.

My mother used to tell me that being a teacher is a very difficult job, because you can teach others how to read and write.

Maybe if I start going to school next year I could be a teacher, Insha’Allah.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Boy: “It’s a good school that takes care of orphans. They give us cake and juice in the mornings. In the afternoon they give all the boys and girls kebabs.”

TIME CODE: 55:00_01:00:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Unknown Iraqi Boy: “They give us everything we need at school In winter they give us clothes and in the summer they let us play for longer. We get everything we need.

All rise!

Good morning teacher!

Sit down!

Thanks teacher!

Peace be upon you.

Peace be upon you too.

Since the fall of the regime seven years ago,

Iraqis have experienced no positives changes in their lives.

The bombings have meant that there are more and more children who

Have become orphans.

All this devastation and grief are a reality in Iraq nowadays.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Teacher: “Today’s subject is history. We will revise the whole syllabus. We will start will the following: As you know in 6th grade, we study contemporary history, beginning with the Ottoman occupation, western invasions, colonialism

and the Palestinian cause, a key issue for us as Arabs. It’s clear that the United States is the main culprit of the current situation as they carried out the invasion.

We view it as colonialism. When they overruled the old regime, they didn’t have an alternative government in waiting. Bremmer’s main mistake was to dissolve the army and all the ministries.

So what is history? Why do we study it?

Let’s begin with the definition. Who wants to give it a go?

History is an account of events which took place in a country or to a population, used to examine their political, social and economic situation.

Let me repeat that once again.We have changed our educational system from the old regime but we still haven’t completed the changes that we want.

Take the importance we give to the relationship we have with the Prophet’s family. We follow great men such as Imam Ali, Hasan, Husayn and their closest relatives.

At present, these men do not appear in the history books. It’s true that we’ve made some changes, but not all those we wish to. We’ve rewritten what transpired from 2003 onwards in a better way.

We’ve omitted everything about Sadaam Hussein from the history books. History is a very important subject; it comes up in all the exams.

Who wants to tell me again the benefits of studying history?

Go ahead, Baker.

To know the history of nations, increase the understanding of one’s country and to develop the student’s patriotic feelings.”

TIME CODE: 01:00:00_01:05:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Teacher: “How are you all? Are you prepared for the Arabic lesson?

Today we will be learning about the subject and the predicate. You’ve studied in the 5th and 6th grade and it isn’t hard.

But first I want to tell you something very important about Arabic.

Most of them tell you that their fathers died in an explosion, killed by terrorists.

So they don’t care about studying.

They carry a huge weight on their shoulders.

We had one pupil whose father was killed right in front of him.

He had serious psychological problems. If the teacher raised his voice at any point he would get scared.

This is made up of the subject and the predicate.

Out of the 400 orphans we have, most of them have lost their parents in terrorist attacks.

Only one in fifty has had a parent die of natural causes.

The rest have lost a parent in explosions or bombings.

Whenever you ask them about the deaths, they’ll tell you in detail how it happened.

For example, they’ll tell you how their parents were on their way to work,

How the car stopped at the side of the road, how it exploded, what it was like

To see them in hospital, what their suffering was like, how long it lasted.

There’s a lot of suffering. I remember how a pupil’s mother once came and the boy told me how they had nothing to eat.

The Americans have done the complete opposite with the Iraqi children to what they do with their own.

They invaded Iraq with their weapons and their heavy artillery, killing parents and destroying children’s lives.

I ask myself if these people who talk of science, culture, civilization, are they too obtuse to not see the crimes committed by Americans in this land?”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Tiba Skandar, Iraqi resident: “My name is Tiba Skandar, I’m in 5th grade at Kafel al Yatin School. My mother is still alive but my father died. We are six all together living at home. My father died when a car bomb exploded. That’s our life, we get no help. We have no income but we just have take things as they are. I’ve only got one toy. I’ve got three sisters. Our mother only gives us 1000 dinars to go school. The bus drivers get angry with us because we don’t have enough money for the ride. But we go to school and come back every day with that money, to at least study and learn.”

TIME CODE: 01:05:00_01:10:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Dr. Haida Al Maliki:“I am Dr. Haida Al Maliki. I’m a child psychiatrist.I am the directorate of neuropsychiatry department in … paediatric children’s hospital.We are in direct contact with the people in the hospital or outside the hospital. Our study shows that now more than 70% of Iraqi people now have PTSD symptom.The war changed Iraqi people from healthy people to more disturbed people.70% of Iraqi children have PTSD, pure PTSD symptoms.Different symptoms, depression and anxiety…Antisocial behaviour. Some of them abuse drugs. Some of them abuse alcohol, some don’t enter school and some have a poor school performance.Most of these people are now aggressive,And the aggression is one sign of PTSD.No one can go to work or school, or to visit friends and not be afraid of something.Of bombs or someone who might kill him. We don’t know who is the enemy.

So they are always living in a stressful situation. Our children our exposed to various … War traumas. I see today about forty to fifty patients.

Most of them complain of different psychological problems like autistic disorder,

Attention deficit behaviour or disturbance.”

Conversation [Arabic], between a boy and Doctor: “He came up and grabbed my finger.

They switched off the lights…

-The American soldier?


How did he grab your finger?

He held it like this and told me he was going to chop it off if I didn’t speak English.

He put a knife to his finger.

I told him “I don’t speak English”.

As he held my finger, he kept repeating, “Speak English!”

I asked him for a translator and he said, “Here’s your translator”.

-His fist was the translator, right?



-Since then, I…

How long did this situation last, fifteen minutes more or less?

No, more than half an hour. They held him in a dark room.

In a dark room?

Yes, only with a light shining in his face.

Why did all this happen?

Just because I didn’t speak English. I told them I wanted to go home.

Did they hit you?

No, but I was really scared.

It was the first time something like that had happened to me.

-So they only scared you?


He’d point the camera at me, take pictures and send them to military base.

He said that if my name was on the list he’d arrest me.

-For how long?

-More than half an hour. I went home afterwards.

-What happened when you got home?

-I was really frightened.

He’s always nervous. Whenever he sees or hears them coming, he runs home and hides behind the fridge.

-Even now?
-He’s a bit better now.

Thanks to the treatment.

How do you feel?

I always have stomach pains, I’m nervous, I get incontinence at night.

Only at night? How about during the day?

I’m fine during the day.

Have you ever walked down the street where it all happened?

I go past sometimes but if I see them coming I hide.

Every time you go there do you remember what happened?


Did you tell your parents after it happened, that the Americans detained you, intimidated you?

Yes, but I was still in fear.

Surely it’s happened to some of your friends too?

Yes, he was really worried that it might happen to him as it did to a couple of his friends.

Ok, carry on with the treatment.

I will see you next month and hopefully you’ll feel better.”

TIME CODE: 01:10:00_01:15:00

SOUNDBITE [English],Dr. Haida Al Maliki:“We have one man also from Fallujah. He was in prison for about six months because his father was wanted by the American troops. They couldn’t arrest him so they arrested his baby for about six month. During this time he was tortured by American troops and there are some scars of torturing on his back and his lower limb. He was in a very difficult situation, he’s very irritable, anxious, sleep disturbances and even bed wetting, nocturnal occurrences. We treated him first with anxiety drugs. We gave him benzodiazepine and to franil.For about two monthsAnd then continued by supported psychotherapyAmerican troops and other armies killed many Iraqi people and I think they killed the life of Iraq.When they came to Iraq they claim that they’d kill Sadaam and help Iraqi people and we told them nowand after seven years. They create about one thousand or ten thousand Sadaams.

We think our generation will become more aggressive and more disturbed than Sadaam’s

Sadaam as many people know had personality disorder.

and now we think our generation has many people with personality disorder and in the future after ten or fifteen years those children will grow up and become leaders

of our society. we will have more wars with our neighbours

Iran or in the Gulf area. We think we will have many troubles in the future

because of this violent relation.

What’s the problem? Why has she been brought here?

She’s suffering from depression.”

Conversation [Arabic], between Rahim and Doctor:

“What’s your name, young lady?

Riham Hassem.

How old are you?


Tell me what’s wrong, darling?

I’m not really sure, I feel really tired and not in the mood to do anything.

-How long have you been ill for?

-A month.

-What’s wrong?

-My joints hurt.

-Have you spoken to any other doctor?

-Yes, they told me it was just fatigue.

-Did you check with a specialist?


-And now you’re getting treatment for your illness?


-Do you know what your illness is and how it’s affecting you?


-Have you asked anybody about it?


-Do you what treatment you’re receiving and what it’s for?

-No, they don’t want to tell me.

-What medicine are they giving you? Is it injections?


-Chemotherapy injections?

-Yes, and also for the infection.

-Do they make you feel ill?

-A bit.

-Do you get nausea?


-Is your hair falling out?


-Does that affect your mood?

-A bit.

-What do you mean a bit?

-I’m really worried that my hair will fall out.

But you know that your mood will have an influence on your recovery?

Accept your illness and trust God because the treatment works.

-Ok, young lady?


I’m going to tell the nurse to come and check on you every day.

She has to rest because her mother and husband have problems.

Riham has to buy the food most days.

Don’t worry, we’re going to treat you so you feel better.

Bring her clipboard to see the indications

and you check on her every day and talk to her.

Ok, I hope everything goes well.

Thanks, doctor. I’ll bring you the clipboard straight away.”

TIME CODE: 01:15:00_01:20:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mother of Riham: “Riham was perfectly fine, she had end of year exams.

She was getting tired easily, as any student who studies overnight. But I noticed she was worn out, I just thought it was because of the exam.

I took her to see a doctor who told me she was well, he didn’t spot the illness.

But a couple of days later, she got worse and looked ill, almost yellow. She had a temperature and was very weak, she couldn’t even go up the stairs. They carried out another blood test, and diagnosed the illness. She had leukaemia. All because of the war. There didn’t used to be as many leukaemia cases in Iraq before.

Even the word, cancer, scares me. We’d hear of people with the illness, But they were over 70.

I could honestly say that I’d only heard of someone with cancer every ten years.

But since the war the illness has spread likea regular cold or migraine. I never thought my daughter would have cancer.But when I came to this hospital I cried God is great!I saw cases I never would have imagined.4 month old babies, one or two year olds,even more severe cases than that of my daughter.Liver cancer, kidney cancer, intestinal cancer.

You know Iraq’s story, we don’t always get the necessary medicine.Doctors do all they can but there’s not always enough medicine or they get here too late.

I made every effort to raise my daughter and would dream of seeing her at university or in her wedding dress.

She’s blossoming like a flower, Just beginning her puberty.

I loved it when Riham would help me around the house

My mother is dead, but Riham was like a mother, a sister and a friend to me.

But then the illness came along, The cancer will take Riham away from me.

If only it were another illness, I’m willing to give her my liver, my kidneys, my blood, even my eyes.

I’m willing to drag myself in the dirt to see her live.

I plead to God to let her live, even if I have to take care of her.

It’s so hard, you can’t imagine.

I die a thousand times every second, but I can’t show it when I’m in front of her.

I just can’t, I’m drowning but I don’t want her to lose hope.

I can’t imagine my life without Riham.

I live in darkness, all my life has been tainted black.

My life ended the day I found out she was sick.

I have a young boy who I pay no attention to, It’s been a while since I saw him.

He’s three years old, at that age he needs his mother.

I’ve deserted my house, I do nothing there,I only want Riham to get better.

I feel as if someone’s switched the light off in my life, I’ve reached a dead end.

But I still believe God is merciful and hope he forgives those who caused this.

I commend God for his help.”

TIME CODE: 01:20:00_01:25:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Riham, War Victim: “It’s God’s will. If he wants me to go through this I will take it.

This is a test for me. I’ve accepted it. I need to be patient. Just patient.

Patients get whatever they wish for.

Who would you thank?

Only my mother.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Dr. Alawi: “When we count the number of new cases of cancer and the population it is higher than that of Hiroshima, although I don’t know the exact figures. But there is actually in the number of cases in our country,

especially in Al Fallujah. Cases don’t respond well to treatment. Even we start treatment, and during or after they discontinue treatment they get worse or from start it is presented at advanced stage of malignancy. Like neuropathy is most likely presented at stage 4. Or tumour, type of leukaemia with chromosomal abnormality that does not respond well to treatment. We cannot find the cause

We need a special investigation into the water, salts, foods that are contaminated with uranium. It is a difficult investigation.

I suspect its due to because poor response to chemotherapy because even if response relapsed sooner or later

Disastrous Some patients I love to much And in the past I’ve cried for them. I feel like the father When the son or daughter is killed, not dead! Killed in front of them. There is an increase in the number, and in the future it will increase more because They carry the risk factor and the genetic alteration in The mother or the father New case, two or three month malignancy! It’s disastrous! I remember a patient from Al Fallujah seven months ago, passed away a few days after his visit. It’s disastrous.”

TIME CODE: 01:25:00_01:30:00

Conversation [Arabic], Between Doctor and mother of Riham:

“- This type of illness is usually resistant.

- I see.

It’s the best treatment we can offer. What matters most is the backbone, If the percentage doesn’t surpass 5%, even if we’re talking about 1 or 2%, it would be better than 3 or 4%.

In your opinion as a doctor, can it have something to do with they kind of weapons used by US forces here?

No, I don’t know about this.

Is it possible that some new weapons have been tested in Iraq?

Yes, it is possible. We are not documented 100% but ask the result!”

SOUNDBITE [English], Doctor: “This is Zahara. Many journalists have reached Zahara and her family. They were exposed to an actual battle inside their house. Their house?

Yes, the forces entered their house and shot at them. As the father said, everything was destroyed. After that the mother was pregnant, she lost a baby. And then she became pregnant again, and Zahara was born. Zahara has many defects, its not very clear…

Six fingers?

Six fingers and abnormal. Short and white hands. There are pictures of her on the internet also.

She became very famous. Yes, different kinds of deformities.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Father of Zahra, War victim: “I wish had a normal daughter that could play and run like the other children. It’s quite sad because nine months of pregnancy are not easy to then have a girl with deformities, spinal problems, water on the brain and both legs paralysed. All the doctors that have seen her think it has been caused by the white phosphorus used by the US army on the attack on Fallujah.

The doctors that have treated Luma say that the percentage of cases is higher than that of Japan.

This is a country that has been attacked with atomic bombs.

Is she doing any better?

She is the same as before.

It’s very sad, since her mother gave birth she hasn’t been able to eat. Every time she looks at Luma she starts crying.

We are from God and into Him we shall return.

-Have you changed her nappies?

- Yes, of course.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Mother of Zahra, War victim: “We have to wait twenty days to see if she improves. And then they might operate on her.

Do you mean plastic surgery?

Firstly they’d operate on her back.

How about the water on the brain?

Firstly they want to see how she is doing to reach a decision.

I don’t know much else.

-So first on the back and then on the head?

-That’s right.

General opinion is that the attack on Fallujah is to blame

for all these deformities.

All her other brothers were born healthy without any kind of deformities. The last one was born in 2000 without any health problems.

After the attacks on Fallujah in 2004 I gave birth to this deformed baby.

What can I say? They came here and attacked us. Our children have been born with malformations.

Our whole lives have gone downhill, things will never be the same.

After having Luma, I don’t ever want to give birth again. I will never ever have the desire to be a mother again.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Doctor: “The cases that arrive at the hospital and seek management may be much less than those born outside with midwives. They may be born dead and are buried before they reach a doctor to diagnose them.

Just a few days ago by chance I faced one of the families when I was going to the pharmacy to buy some drugs. The grandmother asked me if I was Dr. Samira and if I was registering some the cases. She said they had a baby that was born three months ago I took down some details, I understood that the baby was actually aborted. It was born with some respiration, it wasn’t dead. He lasted for about an hour they put it in a grave without asking a doctor. She died at night. There was a curfew from six in the evening till six in the morning when she fell ill, so we weren’t able to take her to hospital.”

SOUNDITE [Arabic], Mother of Riham: “God help us fight against the unjust ones. Allow my daughter into your paradise. Merciful God, help us get rid of the unjust ones.The Americans wouldn’t let anybody go out. There were two soldiers at each door. We couldn’t go to mosque or to the doctor, we couldn’t have visits. People would die at night at home and be buried in the morning. I was scared to go out and risk the lives of my husband and son. She died at 6 in the morning and there was nothing we could do about it. My brother, husband and son buried her at sunrise. They left her by herself in her grave. The doctors told me the white phosphorus was to blame. I think it was when they launched the offensive on Fallujah bridge.

What happened here is a tragedy. Of course they are to blame and I will never forgive them. May God punish the culprits and the oppressor who brought them here. You can find incredible cases, just visit some of the local neighbourhood.

You’ll hear stories that will shock you. I’ve seen cases in the hospital that would distress anybody who saw them.”


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