Parents. The Anti-Drug.    
Good Morning America World News Tonight 20/20 Primetime Nightline WNN This Week
March 27, 2003

(AP Photo)
Iraqi Family Flees From Baghdad to Jordan
Shaking With Fear, Family Flees Baghdad Over Bombed-Out Road Lined With Armed Tribesmen

The Associated Press

Print This Page
Email This Page
See Most Sent
Ambushed U.S. Soldiers' Tale of Survival
Desert Hospital Treats Wounded In the Field
Anti-Tank Missile May Give Iraq Extra Punch
AL-RUWEISHID, Jordan March 28

They didn't say a word as they barreled down the deserted, crater-pocked highway at 110 mph Thursday. For eight hours, their lips moved with verses from the Quran, but no sound emerged.

They prayed to the roar of the battered Chevrolet 2500, and to the scream of the desert wind. They prayed to the whine of the imam, reciting from the cassette player.

They gaped at crushed buses, burned-out cars and teetering bridges. But they stopped only twice, hurrying to fill their gas tank.

When the family of six finally emerged from Iraq and stopped for thick coffee at a roadside restaurant in this outpost 50 miles from the Iraqi border, their faces lit up with smiles for the first time in seven days.

"This smile is because I'm here and I'm safe. But my heart is very sad," said Ashwa, 21. "I left in Baghdad my friends, my family, my cousins everybody. If I go back after the war, will they still be alive?"

Sadeq, a loyal member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, has done well for himself despite 13 years of U.N.-imposed sanctions on Iraq.

He built an import-export business that ran grocery stock and car parts between Baghdad and Amman. He built a luxurious house in northern Baghdad and rented a comfortable apartment in the Jordanian capital.

The children attended private schools and learned fluent English. Ashwa enrolled in college to become a civil engineer.

None of that made any difference when the first cruise missiles slammed into Baghdad on March 20. The family speaking on condition that their last name not be published and that they not be photographed was thrust into the same hell as Baghdad's 5 million other residents.

Schools closed, phone lines fell and many shops were shuttered. As nighttime air raid sirens wailed, the family huddled together in terror.

"Every night, my daughter would shake like somebody who has Parkinson's," Sadeq said.

"It was terrible," Ashwa, the daughter in question, confessed quietly. "Especially at night, when I heard the sound of the bombs."

"We didn't want to go," added Sadeq's wife, Sahira, her voice breaking. "We had everything there friends, relatives, our things."

The family was conflicted: Sadeq wanted to take up arms to defend his country. Sahira worried about her girls.

"I have three daughters. The Americans were coming, and they are beasts," Sahira said. "I had to protect them."

And so on Tuesday, the sixth day of punishing airstrikes, the family reached a decision: They would flee.

Sadeq called a taxi driver who had taken him to Amman so many times. The normal fee for the trip, $200 in U.S. dollars, had risen to $2,000 as it became ever more dangerous, but Sadeq appealed to the men's long relationship.

The road wasn't safe, the driver said, but he agreed to make the run for $450. If the family made it, he would be out as well.

The family packed and prepared to leave first thing Wednesday morning. But they awoke to a city shrouded in dust in one of the worst sandstorms in memory. The driver decided they would have to wait.

"Last night I held my sisters and said, `There they come,'" said Zeynab, 12. "The planes came and the nightmare started again."

Sahira had told the children not to worry because the planes weren't targeting civilians. But Wednesday night, she said, she couldn't repeat those assurances after a missile exploded in a Baghdad marketplace, killing 14 people.

"How can they kill people who haven't done anything to them?" Sahira asked.

The family weathered the night, and at 8:15 a.m. Thursday, they hit the road.

Sadeq had heard the rumors: U.S. helicopters were hunting for fleeing Iraqi officers; armed tribesmen waited to ambush passing cars; a U.S. military checkpoint was firing on oncoming vehicles.

"We were worried that any helicopter would shoot us, because they are killing everybody," he said. "I was looking left, right, looking for a helicopter."

"There was no talking," Ashwa said. "We just prayed. Nothing else."

The family reported passing three bombed buses, four charred cars, two destroyed bridges. They held their breath as they hugged the shoulder of one bridge the only part still standing.

They passed three moving cars during the entire trip, all of them tearing across the desert in the other direction, toward Baghdad. They didn't dare to stop them and ask about the road ahead.

"The whole way I looked up at the sky," Sahira said. "I stuck my face against the window and looked up. I was ready to jump out and run at any moment."

"We listened to the Quran and prayed to God to arrive at the border safely," Sadeq said.

After eight hours, their prayers were answered: There had been no American helicopters, no armed tribesmen, no checkpoints. They were at the border.

Big smiles spread on the women's faces when they arrived at the Abu Sayyef restaurant in the border outpost of Al-Ruweishid for a cup of coffee before continuing onto Amman, three hours to the west.

As a television in the restaurant flashed images of Baghdad, smoke rising from the buildings, Sahira pointed excitedly and called to Zeynab.

"Look, look! Images from home!" she yelled.

The little girl turned away, hiding her eyes in her hands.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Niko Price is correspondent at large for The Associated Press.

photo credit and caption:
Fire and smoke can be seen over Baghdad Thursday night, March 27, 2003. Strong explosions shook central Baghdad late Thursday, and buildings close to the Information Ministry appeared to have been hit.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

International Index
More Raw News
Major Battles Expected Outside Baghdad
Ambushed U.S. Troops' Tale of Survival
Why Iraq War Looks Different Worldwide
Adviser Perle Leaves Defense Panel Chair
Have the Rules of War Been Violated?


Copyright 2003 ABCNEWS Internet Ventures.

Family of sites:        ABC Family        GO Mail