| Twelve-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas in a Baghdad hospital. (Reuters)
London, April 9 (Reuters): From Hiroshima to Vietnam, pictures of horrifically injured children have long formed the starkest and most enduring images of war.
Now a badly burned Iraqi boy, who lost his family and both arms in a US bombing raid on Baghdad, has become the face of suffering in the conflict for many around the world and sparked a flood of fundraising appeals.
At least three British newspapers and a charity launched appeals today to raise money for war victims in Iraq, spurred by the haunting photo and story of Ali Ismaeel Abbas.
“The picture that will stay with us... the image that refuses to leave the retina no matter how many times you blink, is of 12-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas,” London’s Evening Standard said as it launched an appeal on behalf of the Red Cross.
Three days ago the child haltingly told Reuters journalist Samia Nakhoul — herself later injured when a US tank shelled a Baghdad hotel yesterday — how war had shattered his life. The Reuters photographer was Faleh Kheiber.
The missile that obliterated Ali’s home also killed his father, pregnant mother, brother, three cousins and three other relatives and left him without his arms and badly burned.
“Can you help me get my arms back' Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands. If I don’t get a pair of hands I will commit suicide,” he said with tears spilling down his cheeks and fear and pain in his eyes.
“I wanted to become an army officer when I grow up, but not any more. Now I want to become a doctor, but how can I' I don’t have hands.”
Catherine Mahoney from the British Red Cross said they had been inundated with calls from people who wanted to donate money to Ali, to adopt him, or help fly him out for treatment.
But she said the picture had a much wider impact than showing the child’s personal tragedy. It had brought home the whole human cost of the war unlike any other image so far. “Because of the way reporters have been embedded with the military, a lot of the coverage so far has been concentrated on the military campaign, not the human cost,” she said. “But this little boy Ali has captured the horror of war. It is all spelled out in the photo, in his face, his eyes. One person has made the horror real for the world.”
Mahoney said there was always one image from a conflict or disaster that was the most potent symbol of suffering — from the picture of nine-year-old Kim Phuc running naked and burnt after a napalm attack in the Vietnam War to that of Sophia Pedro who gave birth in a tree in flooded Mozambique.
Maharani Gayatri Devi said she wanted to pay for his medical treatment in Iraq or anywhere else in the world. “I want to help the boy in getting back his limbs. I will bear the expenses,” Gayatri Devi said.
One British artificial limbs clinic has offered to treat Ali while the Limbless Association charity set up “Ali's Fund for the Limbless of Iraq,” dedicated to helping him and other children who have suffered similar tragedies.
Television stations and newspapers have carried numerous editorials and letters about Ali.