Salee Allawe, a ten-year-old child, was critically injured on November 7, 2006 while playing with her brother, cousin and some friends outside her uncle’s home in Haswa, Iraq. Salee said they were playing hopscotch when US jets flew overhead and fired missiles. A US missile killed her 15 year-old brother and her cousin and blew off Salee’s legs at the knees.
Salee and her immediate family are Sunnis and were forced to leave Baghdad by Shiite militias. Salee’s father, Hussein Allawe, took them to Haswa, a central Iraqi town between Baghdad and Fallujah, to stay with relatives. I met the vibrantly beautiful Salee at the University of South Carolina in Columbia on 9/12/07 at a presentation of her odyssey to America sponsored by the Muslim Student Ass’n, No More Victims, the Upstate Coalition for Compassion and the Carolina Peace Resource Center.
Approximately four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the ongoing violence-with half of them living in Syria and Jordan and others, like Salee and her family, who are displaced within their own country. Many of the nearly one million Iraqi refugee children in both Jordan and Syria are not in school, but sitting at home with nothing to do. The displaced are growing by as many as 50,000 a month. This is the largest exodus since the mass migrations caused by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948
The US State Department said they would take 7,000 Iraqi refugees in February, 2007 but the number actually taken by the US is much lower. 135,000 Vietnamese refugees fled to the United States at the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War with U.S. families sponsoring refugee families until they found work
Meanwhile, the killing goes on. On September 14, the Los Angeles Times reported on a new survey by a British polling agency (ORB) suggesting that the civilian death toll from the Iraq war could be more than 1 million.
ORB has conducted several surveys in Iraq and their new survey results followed statements this week from the U.S. military who were accused of trying to play down Iraqi deaths to make its strategy appear successful. The military has said civilian deaths from sectarian violence have fallen more than 55% since President Bush sent an additional 28,500 troops to Iraq this year, but provides no specific numbers.
The ORB poll surveyed 1,461 adults and it suggests the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million.
We have not halted the killing of Iraqi civilians, but Cole Miller, Founding Director of No More Victims, has been helping injured Iraqi children like Salee with health care in the United States. His organization has brought over 7 severely injured Iraqi children so far. Miller seeks out local folks to sponsor the children.
Ann Cothran of Williamston, S.C. and her friends Selena Frank and Lisa Hall responded by starting the non-profit Upstate Coalition of Compassion to help a war-injured child.
Miller said “Ann Cothran sent me an e-mail back in 2005 and said they wanted to help.”
Liv Osby, a health writer for the Greenville News has covered Salee’s story. “All we knew was she needed two prostheses,” Cothran told Osby. “We contacted Cole, and he found Salee’s medical records and sent them to us. Then we went to the Shriners’ hospital, and they said they could help. At that point, we started trying to bring Salee to this area.”
By holding car washes, bake sales and other fundraisers around the community, the group raised $12,000 to help get Salee to Greenville.
The funds cover airfare, hotel and other expenses for the children and their parents, Miller says. They also help the families that must stay behind in Iraq.
Meeting Salee Allawe, Cole Miller and Ann Cothran and sharing the love and compassion that brought them together was an experience I’ll never forget. We have 4 grandchildren. Our oldest is Madeline, who is the same age as was Salee when Salee had her legs blown off while playing hopscotch. Madeline and her friends like to play hopscotch too here in Columbia, S.C.
In my world, Madeline and Salee are one, because… “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Jesus, the prince of peace knew that non-violence—not war—was the answer for all God’s children.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina. www.turnipseed.net