Iraqi Child Struggles to Adjust to Losses
Sun Mar 21, 2004
Associated Press http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&ncid=736&e=8&u=/ap/20040
By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer
BASRA, Iraq - War robbed 10-year-old Ibtihal Jassem. She lost her right leg.
And the little girl who was born deaf and mute was deprived of the security
of a loving family.
She was the only one in her family to survive a coalition air raid on Basra
two days after the war began.
An Associated Press photograph of an uncle carrying Ibtihal into the
southern city's al-Tahrir Hospital was widely used by news media around the
Today, while other children are back in school, she spends her days
struggling with crutches in the streets of her neighborhood on the outskirts
of this southern city.
At her grandparents' home, sitting with her 11 cousins, she looks lost,
unable to interact or play with them, unable to share in the jokes.
Her grandparents and cousins talk to her using a crude form of sign language
or by physically carrying or leading her where they want her to go.
Ibtihal has lived with her grandparents since bombs hit the Mshan
neighborhood last March 22. The explosions killed 34 people, wounded more
than 70 and destroyed 21 houses, residents said.
Among the dead were Ibtihal's mother, Zakia Ahmed, father, Jassem Mohammed,
her three brothers, Ali, 8, Hussein, 3, Rasoul, 18 months, and two sisters,
Jinan, 10, and Sikna, 4.
"It was a massacre. It was a catastrophe," said Jaber Jouda, 57, the
great-uncle who dug Ibtihal from the rubble. He said he found her with her
right leg almost severed and her other leg injured.
Doctors had to amputate the right leg but were able to save the left.
Shaya'a Jaber, Ibtihal's grandmother, now takes care of the girl. She feeds
and washes her and helps put on her artificial leg every morning.
"She has nothing to do all day. She spends her time with her 11 cousins,
taking walks in the streets or playing with her doll," Jaber said as Ibtihal
sat on the carpet of the sitting room, playing with her doll.
It's not clear how much Ibtihal knows about the events of a year ago.
Standing in front of the rubble pile that used to be her family's home, she
is asked if she knows what happened to her parents and siblings. She smiles
shyly, looks at the ground, turns and hobbles away.