Adonis Diaries

Zubair: A collateral damaged Afghani child… and military hospitals hidden truths

Posted on: May 2, 2013

Zubair: An Afghani child, a collateral damaged kid… and military hospitals hidden truths

A 14 year-old kid is playing with his four cousins in the town of Tagab in Afghanistan. A helicopter is converging toward them at very low altitude. Zubair gut feeling was to scramble and run. A Hillfire missile explodes and kills the assembled kids. Zubair is unconscious in a ditch.

A week ago, another missile killed 7 kids rounding up the sheep in the same village.

The injured people are transported to the French military base in Tagab. In this province, everyone know that the “losses” in the public hospital of Kapisa are transferred to the US military hospital in the Bagram base, hosting 25,000 NATO soldiers.

Zubair’s uncle Nasir drives the hospital in Bagram. Today, Zubair is there, tomorrow Zubair is not there anymore.

The next day, the Bagram hospital “has no idea” where Zubair has been transferred: It is a top secret to divulge the whereabout of field casualties…

Three weeks later, Nasir receives a call and a translator asks him to come and pick up his nephew at the Bagram hospital.

Zubair is amputated in both legs, was submitted to a laparotomy procedure: partial ablation of the spleen, colon, kidneys, intestine… and his body is riddled with 52 metal staples in order to close the Ileostomy.

The hospital only recommendation is of removing the staples 6 months later.

Nasir learn that the Red Cross in Kabul provides prosthesis. Zubair does not need prosthesis at this junction: He is fighting for his life and serious after surgery attention is required, and Nasir is sent packing to the regional hospital of Kapisa, where there are no equipment to removing metal staples…

Nasir takes his nephew to the Italian Center for urgent cases in the Panshir.

The Italian hospital is no longer admitting cases coming from other military hospitals: They realized that these cases are hopeless and are sent to them to die in their hospital.

Back to Bagram. A soldier orders Nasir to use a side entrance. Hundreds of injured people are packing the courtyard and moaning…

The  NATO rules and regulations are to exclude civilian causalities from military hospitals, except when about to die.

Finally, after weeks of being shuffled around, Zubair lands at the French pediatric hospital for children whose parents are very poor and cannot afford medical attention.

Zubair survived the horror this time around.

I had this impression that NATO military hospitals in Afghanistan are centers for training surgeons and medical personnel on war time field casualties and injuries. The surgeons are asked to gain technical skills and keep a patient alive after the surgery for a few days, and let the parents carry him home to die and be buried a few days later

Note 1: This story was extracted from the prolog of “The Devastation” by the French-Afghani neurosurgeon Ahmad Ashraf. Ashraf was a surgeon during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and served as a military surgeon in Herat, a province close to Iran.

During the civil war (1990-94) among the warlords, Ashraf managed to immigrate to France on political asylum. Ashraf frequently return to Afghanistan and perform about 30 surgical operations before returning to Grenoble.

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May 2013

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