The Story Of Hamzah Al-Daeni
On October 18, 2011, 2:43 PM by Hussain Turk
Reflections on the War on Terror when confronted with its most innocent casualties.
Hamzah Al-Daeni was only moments away from celebrating his fifth birthday when he was struck by a U.S. missile in front of his Baghdad home on May 1, 2008. The powerful force that spread from the missile launched Hamzah across the street and into a neighbor’s yard, where he was immediately knocked unconscious. Amidst the frenzied panic unleashed by an American warplane, Hamzah was carried home to his father, Imaad, by a neighbor whose young son Malik died upon impact. Imaad recalled in a solemn voice the terrifying sight of his blood-drenched and dirt-covered five-year-old son, whose exposed intestines dangled aimlessly from his severed abdomen.
Hamzah sustained several injuries throughout his brown-skinned five-year-old body. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors informed Imaad that in order to save his son they needed permission to amputate the unsalvageable appendages that hung like broken branches from Hamzah. Imaad consented on behalf of his son, but the doctors were initially unable to perform the life-saving operation.
Profuse amounts of shrapnel from the blast had severed nearly all of Hamzah’s veins that could have been tapped for an intravenous drip. Imaad and his family felt the hopeless weight of their son’s impending death as the gangrene rapidly crept through Hamzah’s right leg and into his pelvis. But in what could have been his passing moment, Iraqi physicians found a viable vein and were able to perform a massive amputation of Hamzah’s right leg, right testicle, right buttock, two meters of his small intestine, and a portion of his stomach.
I met Hamzah and his father three years later in 2011 at a dinner party hosted by a Palestinian Muslim family in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In the wake of September 11th and the War on Terror, all of our ummah’s gatherings and celebrations had been politically charged. This gathering – where the personal so viciously collided with the political – was no different. The father and son had been brought to the United States by Healing Children of Conflict, a regionally-based NGO that fits third-world amputees with first-world prosthetics. Hamzah and Imaad sat poolside in the Kanaan’s meticulously landscaped backyard, drenched in the humid heat of the early-summer Michigan sun, as local Muslim families and elderly white anti-war activists convened to both celebrate the strength and mourn the pain in Hamzah’s survival.
When I first met Hamzah, I struggled to choke back tears. But he proudly let his crutches fall to the ground as he extended his small hand to shake mine, as any well-mannered young man would have done. My desified “Slamlaikum” was met with his emphatically Iraqi “Wa’laikum as’salam.” I felt proud to be in the presence of a Muslim boy who sounded and looked like a Muslim boy. Hamzah was excited but confused to meet so many two-legged, whole-bodied Muslims in a land where he thought Muslims were impossible. I tried to resist staring at the empty space where his leg should have been, but Hamzah’s bright eight-year-old, gap-toothed smile captivated my attention, shifting it away from the colorful sock he wore on what remained of his left side.
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