On November 3, 2004, Mustafa Ahmed Abed, a toddler still in diapers, came down with a fever. He lived in Fallujah, a city in western Iraq that had already been devastated by American forces in April. More than 800 civilians had been killed, thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, and now the city was on the eve of another, much larger, attack. The polls soon closed in the United States. For weeks the mainstream media had enthusiastically proclaimed that the US military was “gonna kick some ass” in Fallujah after the presidential election. In this first video, Mustafa and his father describe what that meant for a tiny two-year-old boy.
The US “softened” Fallujah up before the invasion began on November 7. Mustafa’s mother had taken him to a clinic for a shot of antibiotics. She was returning home when an American air attack shook the city. She fled down the street carrying Mustafa in her arms, but a missile exploded nearby as she ran, throwing her to the ground and peppering her arms and chest with shrapnel. The blast knocked her unconscious. When she came to, she saw Mustafa lying a few feet away, screaming and covered in blood. Shrapnel had torn his leg and most of his hip from his body. His leg lay beside him on the ground, partially obscured by his intestines.
Two people walked gingerly side-by-side to carry Mustafa to the hospital: one to carry his body, the other to carry his entrails and severed leg in a blanket. Doctors removed a large piece of Mustafa’s colon before he was transferred to a hospital in Ramadi. This brief clip from Rai Television’s (Italy) documentary Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rff8aduPHg4) shows Mustafa’s mother as she’s wheeled into the hospital, and Mustafa shortly after the attack.
American forces were on the verge of invading the city. They attacked with white phosphorus, cluster bombs, mortars, missiles, depleted uranium munitions and other weapons. They commandeered Falujah General Hospital, threw doctors to the ground and shackled them, denying wounded civilians access to medical treatment. Make-shift clinics were set up in homes where terrorized doctors, nurses and untrained civilians worked to save lives. The bombs continued to fall. More that half of Falllujah’s buildings were destroyed.
By some strange miracle, Mustafa survived. But doctors couldn’t treat his extensive internal injuries or provide the prosthetic services he needed. He developed kidney and bladder stones, and endured frequent severe pain for four years. Desperate pleas for assistance from occupation authorities went unanswered. A single small kidney stone can put a linebacker on his back in agony. Mustafa was riddled with stones in both kidneys, and a stone the size of a large egg lodged in his bladder. At six years of age, he weighed 21 pounds.
These years were misery for his parents. Mustafa had no control of his bowel or his urine. The pain was so intense at times that he broke into sweats and writhed in agony for days. His mother attached a colostomy bag to a wound in his abdomen and changed it every day. He needed surgery to repair and shrink the opening, but such medical services were not available in the destroyed city. So when she changed the bag, he prolapsed: his intestines extruded through the hole and had to be pushed back in. Mustafa saw the tears in her mother’s eyes, saw her suffering. He said, “I should have died, then you wouldn’t have to see it.”
No More Victims brought Mustafa to Portland, Oregon in September 2008, where doctors said he was within a week or two of death. The night after his first examination, he was stricken with extreme pain and rushed to the hospital. One of his kidneys failed and had to be removed. He received critical care in Portland that saved his life and one of his kidneys. Caregivers at Shriners Hospital later fitted him with a prosthetic leg, and he underwent extensive physical rehabilitation.
Maxine Fookson and Ned Roach contacted NMV after seeing a segment about Salee Allawe on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. They formed a project, and NMV sent Mustafa’s medical reports for review by local doctors. Maxine and Ned organized more than fifty community members who went to work to help Mustafa and his family. Shriners Hospital of Portland, Oregon generously agreed to treat Mustafa free of charge, and another hospital provided emergency care for Mustafa’s internal injuries that literally saved his life.