Ten-year-old Salee Allawee lost both of her legs in a U.S. air strike last year. The same attack killed her 13-year-old brother and her best friend. Salee’s sister was also injured and lost part of her foot. Salee is learning how to walk again thanks to the organization No More Victims. The group brought her here last December to receive a pair of prosthetic legs. We speak with Salee and her father, Hussein Allawee Feras. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to — well, in a moment, Salee Allawee will join us in studio, but I first want to turn to a short video produced by No More Victims. It features Salee and her dad retelling what happened on the day of the U.S. air strike in Iraq.
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] We were just sitting there, completely unaware. Hijran asked, "What’s that black thing coming towards us? So we all stood up. And I said to Tabarak, "Let’s go!" It made a sound like whoosh. Hijran had already run to a pile of bricks. It fell right in the middle of us. I flew through the air towards the same pile of bricks. I grabbed onto them right away.
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Just like we’re sitting here now, we were just sitting there, stirring our tea, as I remember. Just stirring tea. Suddenly, we were thrown up in the air, and there was dust and smoke and blood and pieces of flesh on the walls that are still there now. It was a strong blast. Some of us ran into the house, overcome by terror. In our fear, we had forgotten that the children were outside, and they had only been three or four meters away from us.
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] It fell right in the middle of us, and it made a circle in the street. Rusul was carrying her sister’s teddy bear, and it got all dirty.
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] I asked if anyone was hurt, because all of our clothes were stained with the blood and flesh that had sprinkled over the fence. We heard screaming, and we ran back outside. Akram and Tabarak were scattered in pieces across the ground. I looked around for Salee, who was 30 or 40 feet away sitting on her knees, calling for me and her mother. It looked like there was nothing wrong with her body. Then our neighbor said, "Come quickly," and I ran with my wife, and she cried out, "My daughter!" And we lifted Salee up, and my neighbor shouted, "Her legs are gone!" I can’t describe what it’s like, looking at your daughter, carrying her in your arms, covered in blood, and her legs are not there.
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] Uncle Hamid, all of us, were wearing jackets. He was wearing his jacket, too. And the poor guy had to use it to pick up body parts.
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Who was there for the airplane to shoot at? Who was there for them to shoot at?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] There was me. There was me, Rusul. There was me, Rusul, Tabarak, Akram and Hijran.
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Was there anyone else?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] No.
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] What were you doing?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] Playing hopscotch.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, Salee Allawee and her father will join us live here in our firehouse studio in New York. But first, the break.
AMY GOODMAN: Salee Allawee now joins us in the firehouse studio. Last December, she lost both her legs in a U.S. air strike. The same attack killed her 13-year-old brother and her best friend. We’re also joined by Salee’s father, Hussein Allawee Feras. He works as a foreman at a pickle factory in Iraq. After nearly four months of medical treatment in South Carolina, they’re preparing to return to Iraq. Welcome to Democracy Now!
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Salee, you’re wearing lots of jewelry. Can you talk about where you got it from?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] This is from Georgia, and this is from South Carolina. So they are both from South Carolina and Georgia.
AMY GOODMAN: So these are all from friends you have made here in the United States?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] These are her best friends, Ann and Cole.
AMY GOODMAN: From here. You have come here to America and have gotten new legs?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: How does it feel?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] It feels good. One of my legs just hurts so much, and so I think it’s just infected. It hurts when I wear it.
AMY GOODMAN: Hussein, how has it been for you to come to the United States? Can you — we just watched the video where you describe what happened to Salee. Can you describe what you felt when you were invited to America?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Honestly, I want to start with — I thank very much the good American people. It is a very late information that we learned that the American people are good people. Because the U.S. military is so harsh, they didn’t leave us any time to feel that there are still good people in the U.S., that we just felt that everyone in the U.S. is like the American army. But honestly, when I came to the U.S., I just saw a lot of people who were very interested to help Salee and other than Salee. I couldn’t believe it. A big difference. Alas, we had a very bad impression on the people in the U.S. The American soldiers, alas, are really harsh on us.
AMY GOODMAN: You lost — well, your daughter lost her legs, her best friend. You lost your son?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: In that attack?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Yes, the same incident.
AMY GOODMAN: And your other daughter?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] Yes. One of her legs has to be cut off.
AMY GOODMAN: Salee, what do you tell American children about what happened to you?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] I want to tell them thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you going back to Iraq, Salee? Are you afraid to go back?
SALEE ALLAWEE: [translated] No, I’m not afraid.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about going back, Hussein?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] As you know, my body is here, but my soul is over there. And I don’t think worse things are going to happen in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: What was your experience with the U.S. military before the air attack?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] There is nothing good to tell. Two months after the incident where Salee was injured, again random shooting started to happen in the neighborhood. At 3:00 in the morning one night, a tank was firing at a house while people were sleeping inside, and I saw the roof of that house collapsing on the people inside. We spent 11 hours to dig through the wreckage, trying to find someone who’s alive, because we heard someone’s voice who was still alive. Seven people out of eight were killed in that attack. Only one baby, who was four months old, was alive, and we were able to get him outside. And he’s still alive. And now he’s in Fallujah. This is one of the hundreds of thousands of the incidents and miseries Iraqis face every day.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us. Where do you return when you go back to Iraq? What city?
HUSSEIN ALLAWEE FERAS: [translated] To Fallujah. But if you allow to say some words, OK? I am very grateful to my brother and to the best person — my brother Cole — who helped bringing life back to Salee. For me, honestly, Salee was born again when she came to the U.S. Even though people in the U.S. cannot really help to end the situation in Iraq, I would like everyone to help this person, Cole. I don’t think anyone can object me on this. This is a humanitarian action.
When I was forced to leave my home, when I was displaced, Cole used to send me money, while I was setting books and boards, just like to have some warmth in the house. And at that time, it was a miracle if someone saw someone else carrying five liters of fuel. I just feel that Cole is paying taxes, is paying what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq. He deserves to be supported, and I thank very much the American people.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Have a safe trip back to Iraq. Hussein Allawee Feras, father of Salee, and Salee Allawee, thank you both for joining us.