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Ali's plight touches millions

By CNN's Avril Stephens

Ali
Ali: "If I don't get a pair of hands, I will commit suicide."

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In our 'War Stories' series, CNN correspondents tell the story of war from the perspective of one person living through, recovering from or fighting the war in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Pictures of young Ali Ismaeel Abbas' tortured body have appeared in newspapers and on television screens across Europe.

His voice has been heard pleading for life to return to normal after his family was killed and his arms torn off and body burnt when a missile landed on his Baghdad home.

"Can you help get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands?" he asked from his hospital bed.

"If I don't get a pair of hands, I will commit suicide."

The 12-year-old was asleep at the time of the attack in Diala Bridge district east of Baghdad. His mother, five months pregnant, died, as did his father, brother and seven other members of his family.

"Our neighbors pulled me out and brought me here. I was unconscious," Ali was quoted by Reuters as saying from his bed in Kindi Hospital in Baghdad.

"I wanted to become an army officer when I grow up, but not anymore. Now I want to become a doctor, but how can I? I don't have hands."

Florian Westphal, press officer at the International Committee of the Red Cross, told CNN: "This case is particularly moving but indicative of a general state in Baghdad.

"It is particularly tragic when it happens to such young people."

Ali will have a difficult recovery both physically and psychologically, experts in the UK said.

Readers and viewers in Britain and France have already contacted organizations to see what can be done to help.

"It is very heartening," Ken Andrew, executive professional officer for the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists, told CNN Tuesday.

"It has tugged at a few heartstrings. It was a very emotive picture. People seem to genuinely want to do something."

He suggested that Britain or the United States could help Ali get modern medical treatment once his burns have healed.

Sue Stokes, national coordinator of Reach, a UK family support group for children with upper body disabilities, added: "I do not know what facilities there are in Iraq, but one would hope the U.S. would put in extra aid for children like Ali."

Westphal said hospitals in Baghdad are having to work without electricity and water. The ICRC is delivering medical materials such as drugs and anesthetics.

"The medical work being done in Kindi is exceptional," he said. "Even after working three days around the clock medical staff are still doing a professional job."

But Ali's ambitions to be a doctor will be severely curtailed, Andrew said.

"Being a doctor I think would be a pretty difficult. Even a GP would generally require a certain amount of ability at manipulation of the hands. It will be pretty bleak."

Ali also must overcome the psychological trauma of his losses.

"He has a hard battle ahead," Andrew said.

Stokes said Ali will have to "get used to his body image," especially as the stigma of being limbless is different in various countries.

"For all the will in the world, people will think money will be the answer," Stokes said. "It may not if the system is not there to support him ... but with determination and the right resources he can get a lot out of life."

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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