‘Mummy, what’s war?’ Tristan asked his mother. How do you explain that to a three-year-old child? The only thing that came to my mind was a photo of Ahlam.
Ahlam is a beautiful girl, with a bewitching stare, black hair and a little Hello Kitty necklace. A huge soft toy rabbit rests on her bed. But it’s not her usual bed, at home. It’s her bed at our Rehabilitation Centre in Sulaymaniyah, in Iraq. When she was just twelve, Ahlam lost both her legs when her house in Mosul was hit by a bomb. Here at the Centre we’ve made and fitted two prosthetic legs for her, which she’s learning, with great persistence, to use. The name Ahlam means ‘Dreams’ in Arabic. But who knows what kind of dreams Ahlam will have now?
Her tone of voice is calm; her smile beams serenity. So much so that you forget that Ahlam knows exactly what war is. And that the question she’ll ask herself one day is even harder to answer than Tristan’s. After living through it, Ahlam will ask herself, ‘Why does war exist?’ And what will we say?
— Rossella, member of Emergency staff