Noor Obaid walked the streets of Iraq with her head down because she’s self-conscious and embarrassed about her lazy left eye, blinded and scarred by shrapnel three-and-a-half years ago.
The U.S. military attacked 19-year-old Obaid and her family as they drove along a Fallujah highway in August 2004, she told a group of Americans — including some from Mariposa and El Portal — dedicated to getting her medical treatment.
Obaid’s uncle died, shrapnel lodged in her mother’s chest and metal shards ripped into her eye.
Fellow Iraqis wouldn’t take them to the hospital because they were intimidated by the U.S. soldiers’ presence at the checkpoint, she recalled. Finally, the troops left and they were taken to the hospital, where she was given pain pills, but no treatment.
After suffering day after day and year after year since then, Obaid will finally be able to lift her head.
About a week ago, doctors removed the damaged, sagging eye to prepare the socket for a prosthetic replacement, a procedure funded by residents in Mariposa, El Portal and Chico through No More Victims. The replacement will match the almond pupil of her other eye, as well as its movement.
She’ll still be blind in that eye.
No More Victims, an international relief organization based in Los Angeles, works to help innocent victims wounded from the United States’ invasion and occupation of Iraq.
By doing so, they hope to show that compassion for Iraqis exists among many Americans and to break the cycle of violence, founding director Cole Miller said. “Cause and effect continue to exist,” he said. “There are people who are going to want to get revenge. It’s a natural human reaction.”
A couple of the residents raising money to help Obaid talked with her over the phone for the first time Wednesday through a translator. The conversation ranged from her feelings about Americans to what the surgery means to her.
The operation, to be performed by doctors in Amman, Jordan, is estimated to cost between $8,000 and $10,000. She’ll probably stay in that country for about two months before returning to Fallujah.
The Chico chapter of No More Violence has raised about $4,000 through donations and events, and the Greater Good Project is going to hold fundraising in events next month in El Portal and Mariposa, the group’s vice-president Vicki McMichaels said.
They hope to raise between $500 and $1,000 and acquaint residents with the war’s human toll. “It’s not a political thing. It’s a humanist response,” she said. “It puts a face to the bombing. It puts a family to the situation.”
The attack kept Obaid out of school, and she’s finishing up high school while her former classmates are starting college, said Iraqi Maki Nazzal, No More Victims’ international coordinator.
After the attack, her husband divorced her, and the pressure on women like Obaid to look beautiful has made the obvious injury even more traumatic, Nazzal noted. “She can’t be normal anymore,” he said. “Nobody could.”
She’s outraged at the American forces’ unprovoked outburst of violence, Nazzal relayed, though she’s comforted to know there are U.S. citizens who share her feelings and care about her people.
Though Obaid’s injuries should have never occurred, Nazzal said he finds solace in bringing aid to the so-called collateral damage of warfare.
“It really makes me feel that I’m still human in this ugly world,” he said.
In Arabic, “noor” means light, he said, noting the awful reality that she’s lost half the light she would otherwise see because of American troops.
And ever since the attack, she’s been trying to keep her outlook on humanity from darkening as well.