Activists Mailing List +lt;ACTIV-L@UMCVMB.BITNET+gt; On February 13, 1991 Allied troops de
From: Peter Shell
Activists Mailing List
On February 13, 1991 Allied troops deliberately attacked the Ameriya
bomb shelter on the outskirts of Baghdad in Iraq. This civilian
shelter had been used both to protect civilians and as a hospital
during the war. Over 350 civilians (women, children, and elderly) were
murdered as they slept. In August 1991, after the Gulf War had been
forgotten by most Americans, a peace team made up of three Americans
and a Jordanian went to the Ameriya neighborhood. They interviewed
more than 20 families who had lost family and friends in the bombing
of this shelter.
The entirety of the interviews will be published in a book form in
1992. For more information about this book please contact Jill Castek
at 412-521-9151 or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org on the internet.
OLD MAN WITH ONE BAD EYE
[Abu Sabah Hameed is blind in one eye. He lost his wife of 42 years
in the shelter, along with his son's and daughter's children. In all,
he lost seven family members in the shelter. We talked to him in his
large kitchen while a surviving grandson, a sturdy, mischevous
two-year-old, rolled a watermelon around the floor and played with
pots and pans. Later we talked to his 38-year-old son, Sabah Hameed,
about his father's health, their relationship and the loss of his own
Mohammed, Miriam and Chris are the interviewers from the peace team.]
Mohammed: Abu Sabah Hameed lost his wife, his three grandsons and his
Abu Sabah Hameed: They went to the shelter because they couldn't
stand the bombing.
Miriam: Have you ever been in the shelter yourself?
Abu Sabah Hameed: No.
Mohammed: Did your wife go every night to the shelter?
Abu Sabah Hameed: Yes, for five nights. All the area was deserted and
I was the only one outside the shelter. We went away from Baghdad for
21 days and when we came back, they started going to the shelter. I
believe in shelters for women and children because they are afraid,
but I didn't want to go there myself.
Miriam: So you didn't go there but your wife went every night?
Abu Sabah Hameed: She went five nights a week. I was sick on the
night of the bombing and I didn't feel like going out. My daughter --
she's 30 years old and she has a newborn baby -- she slept by me that
night. That night she couldn't sleep. I felt hesitant to ask her why
she couldn't sleep, but just after midnight I began to go to sleep and
I felt she was going to sleep, too. At the break of dawn, as we slept,
we felt the first hit. The house shook because -- as you know -- our
house is about 150 meters away. For seven minutes there was calm, and
then there was a second hit. That one was much harder. We thought our
house was going to fall down. We were afraid; we didn't know what was
going on. We thought our house was hit. We were sitting down, in
silence with the lantern on, for about an hour or an hour and a half.
Then someone came into the room crying and screaming. One of us went
and checked outside and said that the shelter was hit. We couldn't
believe it. I hit my head on something and suddenly I couldn't see out
of my eye. I was l5 days without eyesight.
Mohammed: You lost your vision? Can you see with this eye?
Abu Sabah Hameed: I've lost my vision in my good eye. This eye has
something wrong with it. I had an operation on my bad eye. My vision
that night was lost in my good eye.
Mohammed: Can you see now out of both of your eyes?
Abu Sabah Hameed: No, I can't see with this eye. I had an operation
on my bad eye and, thank God, I can see out of it now. But I lost the
vision in my good eye when I was hit on the head. Immediately I
couldn't see out of my good eye.
Mohammed: So you lost the vision in your right eye. Was it the same
day the shelter was bombed that you lost your vision?
Abu Sabah Hameed: Yes, the same day. The doctor asked me what
happened, and I told him I got hit in the head and I lost my vision.
You know, seven people went out of this house and they never came
back. They went out at sunset, around 4:30 p.m. that day. When they
brought me the news -- you know, it wasn't easy to hear. It's one of
the hardest things that could happen to a person. I consider it harder
than anything else. I began to smoke much more. I was smoking one pack
a day and then I was up to five a day. I've reduced it a bit, to three
packs a day. All of these problems stemmed from the shelter being
bombed. For three or four months, I'd smoke exactly 100 cigarettes a
day. I didn't even use a lighter; I just went from one cigarette to
another. This is not very easy, you know. This is not easy.
Mohammed: After the shelter was bombed, did you go there and wait by
the Mfence like the other people?
Abu Sabah Hameed: No, I couldn't go. The fire was still burning.
Mohammed: Did you ever go there?
Abu Sabah Hameed: A group went there later, and read the Fatah
(prayer from the Koran). I couldn't go there when it was burning.
Everyone went, but I just couldn't go.
Mohammed: Do you go to the shelter sometimes?
Abu Sabah Hameed: No, I can't go, not even to this day -- and this is
months later. I can't look at it at all. We did not get one body back
from the seven people who left from this house. We didn't get even one
body. When they went to look for the bodies, they couldn't find them
because they were burned so badly. My wife had been with me 42 years.
I lost my wife and my family.
Mohammed: How many days after the bombing did you come back from the
Abu Sabah Hameed: Two months. I was seeing a doctor and after 15 days
I was still being treated. My sight was bad; I couldn't see. My
relatives would come and visit me in the hospital because I couldn't
go outside.... After three months, we found a wallet in the ruins of
the shelter. There was a little money in there but the money was
burned. We found something that showed the wallet belonged to one of
our relatives. It was a key to the door. We found clothes. We found
some clothes that my daughter brought with her that night. They
brought us the key and the burned money.
Chris: So you are better now?
Abu Sabah Hameed: The truth is, I am grateful. It's not shameful to
need others. Someone heard about me and said to me, "I will take you
to a doctor and put you in a government hospital and it won't cost
that much." So I said, "Thank God," and I changed my doctor. I
borrowed more money than I could pay back. The problems with my eye
became big trouble. I kept thinking, "From where am I going to get the
money to pay for this and leave the hospital?" And then the money came
from my dead relatives in the shelter. The hospital helped me a lot.
All of the treatments cost me 250 dinars. I thank God that now it's
fine. I come and I go. It's good, thank God. But my family -- what I
lost in the shelter can never be replaced.
Mohammed: What are the names of the people you lost?
Abu Sabah Hameed: My wife, and my daughter's two children.
Mohammed: What are their names?
Abu Sabah Hameed: Mahiah Ahmed was my wife; and there were the kids
of my daughter -- Wesam and Wassem. Wesam was older; he was in the 9th
grade. He was a big boy; he wasn't a child. Their names were Wesam
Raffat and Wassem Raffat. There were also my son's kids -- my son's
wife, and his son, Mohammed, and the daughters -- I forget their
Mohammed: Three girls?
Abu Sabah Hameed: Two girls and a boy. The total that went from this
house to the shelter was seven people.
Mohammed: None of your sons went?
Abu Sabah Hameed: No, no, they didn't go.
Mohammed: Just your wife, and your son's wife and kids, and your
Abu Sabah Hameed: My children's kids went; there were seven. My
daughter who came to us, her oldest sons went. One of them was in
Junior High and the other one was in grade school, sixth grade.
Mohammed: Who takes care of you in the house now?
Abu Sabah Hameed: My daughter that I told you about. Now she's at her
sister's house. She went just today. She went this morning. Her
brother took her in the car. She said she'll come back at sundown. I
don't think she'll come back, so I'll pray over there and have dinner
and come back here. I don't need much. Believe me, if your family was
destroyed in this way, you wouldn't know how to react. And the way my
wife died. My wife is irreplaceable. The true human being is one who
remembers his wife. We were together for 42 years. It wasn't a few
days, it was 42 years. Every time I got a year older, she was there. I
tell you, everything I own, everything I have, reminds me of my wife.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank