In post-invasion and occupation Iraq, a trip to the store or to visit relatives became extremely dangerous for Iraqis. Convoys routinely opened fire on civilian passenger vehicles; hundreds were killed in these incidents, and thousands injured. General Tommy Franks concisely expressed official concern for the carnage inflicted upon Iraqi civilians. “We don’t do body counts” was his elegant summation.
Omar and his family were victims of this abuse. They were traveling by taxi from Mosul to Baghdad to celebrate Ramadan. An American convoy opened fire on the vehicle, hitting Omar’s father Sabah with three bullets — two in the back, one in the arm. The car burst into flames. The driver and two others passengers were killed. Omar’s burns were so severe that he barely survived. Sabah attempted to save his wife, but was retrained by US troops. She burned alive in the car.
NMV brought Omar to the US for medical care in 2007. He had sustained severe burn injuries of the scalp, the right side of his face and his right ear. He lost the thumb and index finger on his right hand to the flames. His right arm, torso and leg were burned through to the muscle. A severe palmar burn on the left hand fixed his left thumb to his palm. These injuries caused unimaginable physical suffering to a four-year-old boy. He was left severely disfigured for life and with minimal, crude use of his hands and arms.
Surgeons released his fixed thumb, and Omar has recovered his use of that thumb. Doctors replaced his missing thumb with one of this toes. Omar’s right ear had been burned off completely, and doctors inserted a prosthetic replacement. His burn injuries will require continuous treatment as he grows up.
Photos by Rania Mattar
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