Socialist Worker

She escaped, but so many others died

Aysha's house was destroyed in a US bombing raid. Most of her family were killed. Her friends dug her out of the ruins and brought her to Manchester

Issue No. 1931

Aysha Saleem was injured by shrapnel after a bomb destroyed her home killing 8 members of her family

Aysha Saleem was injured by shrapnel after a bomb destroyed her home killing 8 members of her family


TWO VICTIMS of Tony Blair and George Bush’s war on the Iraqi people met last week. Their stories show the horror that is being inflicted upon ordinary people the world over by the “war on terror”.

Rose Gentle, the mother of British soldier Gordon Gentle who died in Iraq in June, visited four year old Iraqi orphan Aysha Saleem at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester on Thursday of last week.

A US bombing raid destroyed Aysha’s house in Fallujah on 4 October killing eight members of her family, including her pregnant mother and three year old brother.

Aysha was the only survivor. She was badly injured, with a broken shoulder and broken ankle bone, as well as shrapnel wounds.

Mazin Younis, the chair of the Iraqi League in Britain, brought Aysha back to Britain for treatment, along with her uncle Mohammed Aljasin. Rose took Aysha presents when she visited her.

Rose told Socialist Worker, “I met Aysha at the hospital when she was getting her plaster changed. She had a container in which she carried all her mum’s belongings. It was heartbreaking.

“Aysha shook my hand and gave me a kiss and a cuddle.

“Her uncle was there, and I think I made him realise that not all British people are bad. The British troops should all come home.

“People here don’t see what these Iraqi kids are going through. Eight members of her family have been killed. It is hard for her. She’s just a kid and she must miss her parents. How can this war be a fight for peace when you see a little girl like that? This is the reality. Bush and Blair are making things worse in Iraq. The Iraqis just want their own country back. Maybe Blair should go and visit Aysha if he wants to see what’s happening in Iraq. The warmongers should be prosecuted for this and every other murder.”

Rose’s visit was organised by the campaigning group Military Families Against the War.

Mazin Younis told Socialist Worker, “Aysha’s house was targeted by US planes on 4 October at 3am. There were two houses next to each other. All the members of Aysha’s family were killed in the attack. A 75 year old neighbour was killed as well.

“The only reason that Aysha survived was that her grandmother loved her so much that she slept with her every night. She shielded her from the explosion.

“An eyewitness account says how the grandmother was torn apart but Aysha was protected.

“The other members of Aysha’s family killed were her three year old brother, Omar, her father, her mother, Atika, who was 24 and six months pregnant—the baby was born and was alive for a couple of hours after the attack.

“Her auntie, who owned and run a pharmacy and who’d passed her masters degree two days beforehand, also died, along with another auntie, two uncles and Aysha’s cousin.

“Rose’s visit was a great move. It was really touching, especially for Aysha. It was a far-reaching visit. Rose’s son and Aysha’s family were the victims of the same criminals—Bush and Blair.

“Rose’s son was sent to war on the basis of a lie. He lost his life because of this, and so did Aysha’s family. These lies have brought mayhem and destruction to innocent people.

“I was in Fallujah on 7 October and discovered there was a survivor, and decided to look for her. I couldn’t find her at first. On 10 October it was very tense in Fallujah as the US were bombing on a daily basis. The city was half-empty. I found Aysha with her grandparents. She was sleeping and barely moving. Aysha was like a challenge because she showed there was a hope of life among all this carnage. I brought her to Wythenshawe Hospital, who have treated her, and now she is walking and even running. The plan is now to search for more Ayshas—the victims of this crazy war. She has created awareness about the innocent victims. The attack on Aysha’s house was cruel and indiscriminate. The next day a US military spokesman said they had bombed a hideout of al-Zarqawi’s followers. I don’t know how Aysha could have been recruited by al-Zarqawi. I visited four houses flattened on the same day. There were no survivors to tell the story they had seen. As I left Fallujah in the evening I could see a plume of smoke from an explosion. I wondered which family had died that morning. The only description you can give to Bush and Blair is murderers. They have committed a huge crime against humanity, and now they are killing the witnesses. They have bombed hospitals to stop doctors telling the world the number of casualties, they have killed journalists, they have bombed mosques. We have footage of civilians killed in a mosque, but we don’t know if this is happening on a daily basis. The case of Aysha and her family is a wake-up call to say, ‘Look who we’re targeting.’ Britain is an accomplice in the crimes. British soldiers replaced US soldiers south of Baghdad. The US soldiers have committed these crimes. British soldiers took the place of murderers.”

The carnage that the US assault on Fallujah has caused is clear from the report of a journalist who has just visited the city.

Nermeen Al-Mufti, a reporter for the Al-Ahram Egyptian newspaper, says, “News from Fallujah has been scarce and one-sided.

“Even the photos are censored. The access road to the city is still closed. The only people allowed in are those working with the Iraqi Red Crescent (RC).

“Haytham Said, a volunteer, announces that RC teams have evacuated 275 bodies which are now preserved in refrigerators.

“According to well informed sources, 600 bodies or so are still lying under the rubble in Fallujah.

“Others have been dismembered by dogs, thrown in the river, or completely decomposed. Most buildings and markets have been destroyed.

“The city has no electricity, drinking water, telephone service or sewage network. On our right is the Askari district, with its fancy villas now in ruins. A nearby mosque has lost one of its minarets, and another is peppered with shell fire. On our left is the industrial area, its workshops all burnt out or demolished.

“It is time for prayers, but I hear no call to prayer. Normal life has come to a standstill. The doors all stand open, on orders from the Marines. Children’s toys and bicycles litter the empty parks, where the unused swings sway in the wind.

“We pass Al-Hadra Al-Mohamadiya Mosque, which is now a US detention facility. More ruined mosques. In the deserted streets, abandoned passenger cars are redeployed as roadblocks.

“Finally, we arrive at Crescent House. There I meet Haj Fouad Al-Kebeisi, 54. He now works as a volunteer with the RC, burying the dead. Al-Kebeisi tells me how Haj Radif Abdel-Wahed, 90, the oldest merchant in Fallujah, died.

“Abdel-Wahed was in the yard doing his ablutions before prayers when a sniper bullet hit him. His children buried him in the garden.

“I run into Haj Mahmoud, accompanied by his wife and six surviving children. Mahmoud’s 13 year old son, Mostafa, was killed by shrapnel. The family’s house was burned down. They took refuge in the one remaining room of their otherwise

destroyed home. Mahmoud’s daughter Fatema, 16, a student at the Teachers’ Institute, says that she used to have big dreams. Now all she wants is to be a normal person once again, to live without fear.

“The family’s youngest son, Abdel-Gabbar, aged three, has been traumatised by the shelling, and still runs to his mother’s arms whenever he hears a loud noise, even if it is just a door slamming.

“Aisha, 14, misses her younger brother, and says she cannot forget the sight of him lying dead in front of the house.

“The whole city is calm. So calm, it is disturbing. Fallujah today is a city of untold stories and unspeakable pain.”

For more information go to the Military Families Against the War website at www.mfaw.org.uk


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Features
Sat 11 Dec 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1931
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