My 6 Year Old Says His Heart Hurts After Running Baghdad Burning: Tales From an Iraq War Survivor

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Baghdad Burning: Tales From an Iraq War Survivor

The last thing Omar Alshujery remembers when the first American bombs hit Baghdad in 2003 was a “big light”.

“I saw a big light,” Omar says, “and I screamed, ‘Take cover!’ Then, the earth shook.”

Alshujery, then only 12, criticized when the force of the explosion sent him against the wall.

Seconds later, as the next wave of bombs rattled outside the thin plaster walls that housed Alshujery, his parents, and his five brothers, the power went out, engulfing their home. Alshujery’s childhood in darkness – a darkness that finally swallows his grandfather and brothers. .

Despite the reports, war is not a pretty thing. It is not sterile or photogenic. It is complex and complicated; it is bloody and chaotic; War is a dirty, ravenous beast with a thousand teeth, and it feasted on Iraq and America.

Death taxes are different. By the time the Iraq war “ended” on December 18, 2011, the Associated Press reported 100,600 casualties between March 2003 and April 2009, but a 2007 independent British report put the number closer to 1.2 million between March 2003 and August 2007 only. What the figures do not account for is the soul wounds suffered by survivors like Alshujery – a man who survived a war between enemies who both claimed his family was a casualty.

During the first stages of the attack, Ashuljery watched as the US Army’s Third Division swarmed the streets of Baghdad, the ground shaking under the weight of the attack.

“We heard the F-16s and the Humvees,” Alshujery says. “Then my brothers and my grandfather cried because they knew our country was destroyed.”

Baghdad fell into chaos after the attack. The streets were filled with dead bodies, and the city was torn with rotten flesh. The other 6 million residents of Alshujery and Baghdad went almost seven years without electricity and running water.

“Life was good before the war,” Omar says. “It was peaceful. We had security. We were working, doing business, and traveling outside the country. Everything was good.”

After the attack, all that changed. The country fell into chaos, and Iraqi civilians were caught in the crossfire of the Americans and Iraqi soldiers, the thieves and bandits, and the anti-Iraqi fighters—AKA “the insurgents.”

Suddenly, Baghdad – “Gift of God” in translation – was the most dangerous place on earth, and every day was full of new horrors for Omar and his family.

In 2005, American soldiers stormed his home in the middle of the night and tried to rob his family at gunpoint. When Omar and his relatives refused to give the money to the soldiers, the Americans arrested his father.

A year later, when Omar was 16, he was kidnapped at gunpoint for the second time, this time by Iraqis.

Omar and his uncle, Saeed, were driving through the desert near Anbar, Iraq, when armed men forced his vehicle to pull over. After they got out of the car, they were beaten, tied and thrown into the trunk of a dark green 1993 BMW in 104-degree heat.

After driving for nearly half an hour, the gunmen stopped the car and dragged Omar and his uncle out of the trunk. One of the gunmen aimed a pistol at Omar’s head and ordered him to put his head down and look at the ground.

“In that moment, I had no fear,” Omar says. “It was just zero. I accepted it as it is, and I said, ‘OK, I’m going to die.’ I didn’t close my eyes and I was thinking, ‘Will the bullet go through or not?’ And, ‘Will I see my blood before I die?'”

Omar and his family finally fled to Syria in 2006 after his brothers and grandfather were kidnapped and murdered.

“We had enough. I watched while armed men kidnapped my uncle Salem and my grandfather Taha had been missing for more than a year,” said Omar. “After finding Salam’s body with more than 30 bullet holes, we finally had him. We crossed the border into Syria that night.”

He lived in Syria for almost two years before the International Organization for Migration helped Omar and his family move to the United States in 2008.

“The war took everything and left us with nothing, Omar says. “It will destroy our homes, our businesses and our lives.”

Despite everything that the war took from Alshujery, the 22-year-old man keeps his home. Today, Omar shares a small apartment in Portland with his mother, father, five brothers and sister.

He is studying engineering at Portland Community College, a degree he dreams of using one day when he returns home to Iraq – after the war and the occupation – after the violence and the bloodshed. blood, when his country can rebuild brick by brick and life by life.

“I look through the past, and I see pain and darkness,” Omar says. “My life was a night with stars and light to guide me through the darkness. I lost the stars. But I have the light, and the stars are in my heart.”

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