The Diary of Amal Salman

Friday, September 2, 2005; 5:30 PM

Amal Salman is an Iraqi girl living in Baghdad who turned 14 during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Washington Post staff writer Anthony Shadid first visited the Salman family in March 2003. During the war and the ensuing conflict, Amal recorded her family's experiences in her diary. She shared copies of her journal with Shadid. These are translated excerpts of Amal's diary.

Monday, March 17, 2003

In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate.

My name is Amal. I have a happy family made up of nine persons: three brothers, who are Ali, a soldier in Mosul; Mohammed, an engraver; and Mahmoud, a student. There are five sisters: Fatima, who helps my mother at home; Zainab; Amal; and my twin sisters, Duaa and Hibba. I am very proud of my mother because she is a great person, who works to bring us food because my father died when we were young, back in Ramadan in 1996 in a car accident. We moved to an apartment on Feb. 1, 2003. We feel very sad having had to move from our house, which we loved, and in which we were raised and spent some beautiful years. Now we are in a nice apartment. . . . We do not want war in Iraq, the land of civilization and prophets. War will be torture. You can see sadness in the eyes of children, and fear. My mother is crying, afraid for us. War separates people, the people we love, and we are worried about the war and the destruction that comes with it. We are supplying ourselves with water and scared that water and electric power will be cut off. Duaa and Hibba are praying to God all the time, to avert war. Fatima feels hopeful that war will not occur. At 8:30, my mom baked a lot of bread for us, so that we will not be short during the war because bakeries will be closed. We keep asking why is there war in the world? Why? . . . Praise to God for everything, but I wish there wouldn't be a war.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

At 7:00, I went to school with my sister Zainab but found there were only a few girls in attendance, not more than 10. Families are scared, and no one seems to know where to go. My sisters, Duaa and Hibba, went to the elementary school at noon, because their school doubles with another school in using the same building. They came back at 12:30, said there was no one at school. We sat to have lunch, then heard the news that at 5 p.m., there will be demonstrations rejecting the aggression on Iraq. Mother said to me she prays to God that Bush will not start the war because we are afraid of war. War has no mercy toward children, nor to the old, nor even to animals; it kills everything in its way. What is their fault, to die in war? What did the women or the elderly do wrong? We pray everyday that there will be no war. . . . Some people say war will happen at 2 a.m. at night. We are afraid. Please God, let it not happen! We went to visit my mom's friend to find if there is any final news on the war and came back at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

We woke up at 7:00 in the morning, cleaned the house and had breakfast at 9:00. Then we sat talking about war. At 2:30, reports said that Bush will soon start the war on Baghdad. We are scared and don't know what to do. Duaa and Hibba, the twins, are imploring God, reading the holy Koran for the sake of peace. My mother is crying and asks what we will do if war breaks out. . . . This state of fear, anxiety and tension is terrorizing the children of Iraq. . . . It is now 6:15, we are scared, waiting for war to start, the strike on the Iraqi capital Baghdad, in which we were brought up. We pray to God that there will be no war. They say at 4:00 in the morning, Bush will start the strike on us. People seem very sad, almost crying, because of the war. Not only that, but there will also be hunger. Already the price of one egg is 200 dinars, bread is expensive, as is almost everything else. Eyes are crying for everything precious. I feel sad for the children. . . . At 10:30 at night, if you go out to the street, you would think it is 3:00 in the morning, because there is not one person in the street. Shops are all closed.

In the early morning, Bush started his strikes on Iraq and the capital Baghdad. We were asleep. Mom woke up and started shouting, "Fatima! Fatima! Wake up! The war has started!" My brother Mahmoud woke up and he seemed scared, so were little Duaa and Hibba, who were crying, and hoping that by daybreak there will be peace. . . .

At 6:00, Um Saif and Um Noor came over. They were very scared, with tears running down their eyes. The military headquarters of the president was hit. After about five minutes, we all gathered at the house -- Um Haider, Um Mohammed, Um Noor, Um Saif and us. Children were scared by the sound of bombing. What have the innocent Iraqis done? Um Mohammed is always following the news, while we are praying to God: "Please God, protect us from the enemy. Oh God, we are in the month of Muharram." In this month, years ago, a big battle took place, in which Imam Hussein was killed, peace be upon him. The night was quiet then Bush struck again after a half-hour.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

... At 9:00 at night, there was an air raid siren, and American planes entered Iraq, and electricity was cut off. Emad and I had gone to the house of my mother's friend, Um Jalal. We were scared and we ran as fast as we could until we reached home, frightened, and imploring God. Please God, save us, our hearts are full of fright and terror. At 9:15, a strong explosion rocked our neighborhood, near our home. . . . Now I am sitting in the corridor in front of the apartment, beside my mother, Um Haider and Um Saif, imploring God to bestow peace on us. Now at 9:25, as we are sitting, explosions are becoming stronger and stronger, and in the eyes of Iraqi families, you can see terror and fright. After a few minutes, the situation quieted but we don't know when Bush's storm will rise again. At 9:40, Um Mohammed and Abu Mohammed who live in the house across the street came over. Abu Mohammed sat with Abu Saif talking about war, asking when the bombing would stop. . . . We -- Um Saif, Abu Saif, Um Haider and Haider -- sat to drink tea, then we had supper at 10:10, and at 10:15, the siren went off again signaling the end of the raid. . . . It is 11:35. You listen to the radio, but they don't tell the full truth. Will we become like Palestine or remain as we are now? Fatima thinks that whether we are dead or alive, we are still the same. How long will we be like this?

Friday, March 21, 2003

We woke up at 8:00, had breakfast at 10:00, then cleaned the house and sat listening to the news. We heard that America yesterday bombed a palace on Abu Nawas street in Karrada. . . . News said that America occupied Basra, and other areas such as Zubair and Um Qasr. Yesterday, too, Mosul was occupied, and soon Baghdad will be in turn. . . . At 8:10, an air raid siren sounded and we -- Um Saif, Abu Saif, Saif, Mahmoud, Duaa and Hibba -- went to the corridor of the building, and sat talking about war. While we were there talking, a missile passed above the building, at 8:30. At 9:00, bombing became so intense that Duaa, Hibba, Fatima, Zainab, myself, Um Saif and Abu Saif, Saif and Mahmoud were crying from fear. The building was shaking, then we went out of the building scared and entered the house next to the building. We found Um Saif, Abu Saif and Saif crying out in the street. Omar and Emad went to bring them back inside because they were out in the street, but they refused because they were so scared and terrorized. As I am writing, the house next to the building is shaking. Omar and Emad came back and said that Abu Saif was across from the house, scared and cowering from the bombing. My mother is crying, imploring God to stop the war. The house is shaking from the intense bombing, but the planes keep bombing without thinking of the children. . . .

We heard next that the headquarters of General Security in Baladiyat was bombed. . . . Then we and Um Mohammed went to the building's roof, saw smoke coming out of the palaces, and we felt tense. Then at 10:30, they bombed again, very intense bombing, close to the building. I felt sacred, while Duaa and Hiba cried. I kept saying, "Please God, give us peace and safety." Um Marwa came out of their apartment and went to the shelter, scared and crying. From the beginning of this day, I felt scared and worried. Tears were coming down my eyes, and I kept saying, "Why the children, the women and the elderly?" . . . I turned on the radio. Reports said America bombed two main palaces on the Tigris at 10:50. I sat in the corridor of the apartment with Um Haider and Um Saif, and we talked about the war. Then at 11:10, the raid ended and my mother said, "Thank God." Um Haider said, "Only 10 minutes and they will come to bomb us again." At 11:45, the air raid siren went off again. . . .

Saturday, March 22, 2003

. . . Today at 3:40, Emad, Um Mohammed and I went to the roof and saw smoke rising from many places in Baghdad. Um Mohammed said they had bombed Rashid Camp. At 7:25, there was heavy bombing, while children and parents panicked. Oh God, we are very scared. The bombing is coming closer and closer to our home. At 9:30, heavy bombing. Saif was crying and Abu Saif, Um Saif, and he then went to the house of a friend. Um Mohammed, Abu Mohammed, Fatima and Emad said the war was coming closer to our home, may God save us. Then Um Saif, Saif, Um Mohammed, mother, Fatima, Zainab, Duaa and I went to the roof. We saw the street empty, without anyone. Now it is 11:07 p.m., and we are tense. . . .

We are waiting for the end of the raid. Oh God, protect me. At 1:30 electricity went out and we heard heavy bombing. Saif is scared of bombing, and Mahmoud is panicky. The bombing is coming closer to the building, and I'm afraid it might come to the building itself. . . . After about a half-hour electricity was back. Thank God! At 2:15, we were asleep, then heard heavy bombing close to our home. We were awaken with a panic and we were afraid. At 4:00, again heavy bombing. God, why this torture?

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