Monday, January 02, 2006

Good News from Abu Ghraib - A New Life

I first read about this story in my local Atlanta newspaper, the Al-Atlanta Journal Constitution. This was quite a surprise to me, since the paper generally leans way left of any issues. The original article posted on Dec. 30, 2005 was the original I read, and to my surprise, they've continued writing about this "good news" story from Iraq. The AJC has been typically anti-war and very liberal, so it was a nice surprise to read this.
Out of turmoil comes joy, hope
Iraqi baby's new name: Georgia

Date: December 30, 2005
Baghdad, Iraq -- The first time Georgia soldiers entered her house, Soad was scared. Americans had detained her eldest son for questioning once. She didn't like gun-toting men in camouflage uniforms poking around the family home in Abu Ghraib.
But out of that frightening moment came a gift of joy.
Gainesville-based soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Brigade Combat Team promised to help give new life to Soad's granddaughter Noor al-Zahra, born three months ago with a severe spinal cord defect that was untreatable in Iraq."I am so thankful for everything," Soad said. "We will call the baby Noor al-Zahra Georgia.""Georgia! Georgia!" she told her daughters when she called home from Baghdad's Camp Liberty on Thursday. "We want to name her that because the people of Georgia are helping us," Soad said. "It will be a nice name for her."
Just hours before an anticipated departure from Iraq, Soad sat in an Army trailer sorting out a host of emotions racing through her heart.She had never left her family behind or flown on a plane before; the only times she had left Iraq was by car to neighboring Syria and Iran.
Now she was about to travel halfway around the world with a sick child in her arms. She had surrendered her granddaughter's future to people she didn't know in a foreign and faraway land.
"I am amazed bythe generosity of the Americans," Soad said through an interpreter. "They came to my house so many times. They paid for everything."Soad, 45, said she never dreamed that one day she would see the United States. She was excited, even though her trip was under such stressful circumstances. She knew that even with the best medical care, there were no guarantees for Noor.
Military doctors who have examined Noor said she would probably be left with paralysis in both legs. No one knows with certainty whether potential fluid buildup has caused any significant brain damage.
Soad knew, too, that she was putting her family at risk by accepting American help -- insurgents often target Iraqi citizens who are seen as cooperating with U.S. soldiers.But she said she had to take the chance
and accept the soldiers' offer to fly Noor to Atlanta. She could not live with herself knowing that she had not done everything she could to give her granddaughter the possibility of a productive life.
The full names of Noor's family members have been withheld because of security reasons. Soad said she told friends and family that she was going to Georgia, not to America."It can be dangerous for us to be associated with America," she said, fixing the tan, crocheted scarf around her head.
Noor, nicknamed "Baby Nora" by the soldiers, was born with spina bifida. Her spinal cord had not fully closed during her mother, Iman's, pregnancy, leaving a tumorlike growth on her tiny back.Iraqi doctors
told the family that they lacked the facilities to treat the baby and that she would not survive long.
Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment's Charlie Company discovered the little girl during a search of the family's house. They were determined to save her. Noor's father, Haider, 23, cradled the frail baby in his arms, thankful that the medical treatment she desperately needed was finally within reach. He'd spent a good chunk of the afternoon getting Noor's name added to his passport.
He poured hot tea for his mother and the interpreter and occasionally stuck his head out the door to smoke a cigarette. He said he had seen America in magazines and movies. He, like his mother, was incredulous that he would soon be there himself.
Capt. Anthony Fournier, 38, commander of Charlie Company, was optimistic that, after weeks of negotiations and efforts to expedite travel arrangements, Noor and her guardians would arrive in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.
Late Thursday night, Fournier, a schoolteacher from Augusta, drove to central Baghdad's heavily fortified International Zone and collected the visas that would enable the family to enter the United States.
Soad, Haider and the baby are expected to leave Baghdad today for Kuwait, from where they will board a commercial jet that will fly them to Atlanta.
Childspring International, an Atlanta-based charity that matches sick children from the developing world with U.S. hospitals, has made arrangements for Noor and her family to stay with an Arabic-speaking host family. Children's Healthcare has offered to perform surgery to correct Noor's spinal cord at no cost.
The traditional Muslim family decided Noor's mother, who is only 18, was too young and should not be traveling out of the country. "Iman has been crying a lot," Soad said about her daughter-in-law. "She misses her baby but is happy that she is getting help. She is very young. She doesn't leave the home."
Soad fired off a dozen questions about Georgia. "Where will we stay in America?" she asked. "How will I let my family know we are safe? How tall are the buildings there? What is the weather like?"
She worried about leaving behind the small shop she runs with her sons at Abu Ghraib market. She worried, too, about one of her daughters, Niran, 24, who is eight months pregnant."I didn't have time to make any preparations for her," Soad said.
Charlie Company soldiers traveled to Soad's house Tuesday night to fetch her, Haider and Noor. The family was given minutes to pack their belongings for the long journey ahead. Since then, the three have been housed in a trailer behind Charlie Company's headquarters at Camp
Soldiers have been stopping by to make sure the family has everything it needs.Thursday evening, Staff Sgt. David Squires wished the family a safe trip. "I hated that it took so long to get administrative and logistical things taken care of," said Squires, 47, who works for a hearing aid company in Gainesville.
"We're all hoping for the best possible outcome for this baby. It's our little project here. It's our mark on this country."
Soad sipped her tea and tried to placate her sobbing granddaughter. She held up a small stuffed animal, tickling Noor's cheeks."Georgia," she said. "Look here, Georgia."The baby stopped crying. She looked into her grandmother's eyes -- and smiled.
Three-month-old Noor smiles at her father from the lap of her grandmother at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq, hours before their anticipated departure, ultimately for Atlanta, for surgery.
Soad cuddles her granddaughter Noor in their trailer Thursday at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq. "I am so thankful for everything," Soad said. Soldiers from Georgia have arranged surgery for Noor.
(Photos by Curtis Compton of the AJC)
So, you see? We are doing some good in Iraq. And thankfully now, Baby Noor is in Atlanta having the healthcare she needs to treat her spina bifida. All compliments of the U.S. Military.


Blogger bee said...

Oh, this is SO touching! I love to hear stories like this! Our troops...caring for the Iraqi people. So proud of our troops! :)

January 03, 2006 9:56 AM  
Blogger Ames Tiedeman said...

Very nice blog!

January 21, 2006 8:52 PM  
Blogger PTM said...

Someday I want my blog to be like this one.

January 27, 2006 2:20 AM  
Blogger Soldier Travis said...

I work at BIAP. Baby Noor's family passed through my Entry Control Point today to visit their detainee. She is doing very, very well. She is still very small, and was being carried, leading me to believe that she does suffer from paralysis. We read the story about her in Stars and Stripes two days ago. I can tell you that it appears that her family has gotten many donations from the US, as they were very well dressed (only the Sheikh in Abu Ghraib has money or dresses nicely... I've worked there, too.) Baby Noor's family loves the hell out of us. Soad was there, as well as Haider and Iman. there were also two other young kids with them. ALL OF THEM elated to be with us. Baby Noor is so beautiful, and it touched us all so much that we know that we just met these extraordinary people. From my broken Arabic, Haider's broken English, I gather that she'll be traveling back to ATL soon for a check up. Haider and Soad loved Atlanta. I think they may be thinking of movie there sometime. And as Baby Noor's family began going into the FOB, Soad held her up to my face and I gave her a kiss on the cheek for being such a special and beautiful little girl. Screw what the libs say... we're changing Iraq one family at a time.

October 09, 2006 11:18 AM  

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