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Alan Pogue, Texas Center for Documentary Photography
Saving One Little Girl's Eyes
Blog from Austin to Amman to Orlando


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Dahr Jamail's Report on the Circumstances of Al Quaim, where Alaa' and her family lived.

The trip to save Alaa' Abd and her mother's eyes began with the successful effort to save Asraa in 2004.

Does helping one small child, or a few, in the face of the faceless tens of thousands whose injuries and deaths are without verifiable numbers, mean anything? Does this just show how futile humanitarian efforts are in comparison with the massive brutality of war?

Or does it show that there is some hope for the future yet because heroic action can be peaceful and humanitarian, with motivations found in the courage to love, rather than to kill?

These questions can be debated, but meanwhile, a photographer and former medic is acting to save a child.

Alan Pogue began a career as a photographer after coming home from Vietnam where he served as a front line US Army combat medic in battles such as the Tet Offensive. He treated the wounds of villagers as well as fellow servicemen.

His photography work ever since then has been wholly dedicated to looking into humanity's wounds for the purpose of bringing hope and healing, crossing the boundary from objective, unfeeling witness into caring and advocacy. The effort to save children from the hell of war is an outgrowth of his lifelong effort. (See Alan's Biography and Showings history.)

Alan made a trip to Iraq in 2000 and encountered Asraa, a 13 year old girl, whose arm had been amputated after a US warplane attack in which she was caught on the way home from school. This photo became widely distributed and was used worldwide as a poster used in large war protest demonstrations. Cole Miller, a screenwriter working in Hollywood, became interested in who the girl was and contacted Alan. Together they traveled to Iraq to search for her, arranged for Asraa and her family to travel to Houston. There, surgery was performed on her arm, a prosthetic was donated for her and she received physical rehabilitation work.

The connection with Alaa' Abd came from contact with one Iraqi doctor, that Cole Miller found. He and Alan hope to be able to create a funded effort sufficient to allow for saving more children.

See Oct 20 email from Cole to Alan below

Background Posts by Date & Time (US-CST)

     Oct 28, 11:53 PM - Getting Ready, more background

     Oct 20 6:45 PM PST - Background


I am flying solo. Cole Miller has handled the paper work and contacted the same legislative help (as in the effort to help Asraa ): Kennedy, Boxer, McDermott, and Kucinich. I need to contact Doggett.

The U.S. embassy has been alerted and is supposed to be on board to expedite the medical visa. My fondest hope is that we can get through the red tape in a week.

Alaa, a girl of 3 years, was struck in the eye with small shrapnel. Her eye could be saved if the surgery is done quickly here in the U.S. In a separate incident her mother, 25 years old, was blinded by shrapnel. I do not know if the mother's eyes can be saved but they will try to help in Orlando.

The father, Khalid Abd ,27, will accompany his wife and daughter. They live in Al Qaim, in western Iraq, which has been an area of intense conflict.

Cole Miller has enlisted the aid of the Central Florida Retina Center and the University of South Florida College of Medicine. Senators Boxer, Kennedy, and Congressmen Kucinich and Mc Dermott have already sent letters to the U.S. embassy in Amman , Jordan. The embassy staff has indicated they will expedite the medical visas as soon as I arrive.

We also have seven year old Abdul Ismaeel who has lost his left eye and needs plastic surgery to reconstruct the left side of his face. Abdul and his parents have not been able to travel to Amman due the the continuing fighting around Falluja but we hope to bring them in the near future.

We are working with a very brave young Iraqi woman who shuttles back and forth from Amman to clinics in western Iraq bringing medical supplies to outlying clinics in Iraq. When she has Alaa and her parents in Baghdad, ready to travel to Amman, then I will fly to Amman and help them through the process and accompany them to the hospital in Orlando.

I'm really broke so two people, Bruce Barrick and Frances Joseph, have volunteered to help raise money for me. The Ragging Grannies in Seattle have raised $3,200 for this effort. Bert Sacks helped with that. Cole has raised some money. The plane tickets are covered and some ground expenses..

Oct 20 06:45:29 PM PST   From: Cole Miller   To: Alan Pogue

Subject: Background

I started looking for medical reports, and tried many blind alleys. You remember what happened in Kuwait [Save the Children wouldn't give us information on war injured children, then the Iraqi doctors wouldn't either, all for political reasons]. Then Jamil [ manager at the Al Monzer Hotel in Amman] put me in touch with an Iraqi doctor. This doctor would forward medical reports of war injured children . I had them reviewed by a doctor to determine needs.

Ashley Severance visited the site several months ago, and sent me an email. We talked many times. I saw she was serious and dedicated. And smart. I connected her with Alaa's medical reports. She arranged the care, an amazing feat in Orlando. Simple, really. This is just what I wanted to have happen. I just got this ten minutes ago from a beautiful young student at Stanford who I met at an event while Asraa was here:

HI COLE!!!!!! I hope all is well- I am going to take you up on the offer- I really really want to bring a child over, and Stanford MSAN is willing to sponsor/raise money for it....where do I start??
     - Ahlia

An important element: Ashley has a daughter exactly Alaa's age.

Give my love to Alaa' and family, will you? I look forward to meeting them in Orlando -- come hell or high water.

     - Cole