This is a story about the death of Amada Saria.
Amada was the younger sister of Mr. Sam Saria, an engineer from Connecticut.
Sam first came to this country in 1986 to study at the University of Connecticut.
He stayed on to become a U.S. citizen, marry, and raise a family. Sam and
his wife Tina settled down in a little town, where the Sarias live with their
Like many of their neighbors, summertime trips to the beach in Cape Cod and
long autumn walks in the New England woods are some of the ways the Sarias have
savored their American experience.
In many ways, the Sarias are a typical first-generation American family, but
in some ways they stand out. Sam, who was born in Iraq, speaks flawless English
with a slight accent, and the Sarias are members of the Mandaean faith.
Mandaeans are not Muslims,
Christians, or Jews, but are in fact the descendants of the followers of John
the Baptist. The Mandaeans have lived as a distinct people in Iraq for over
in February, Sam Saria's American experience changed forever when he found
out that his sister Amada had been killed by American soldiers in Baghdad.
Here's how it happened.
Amada's family is from West Baghdad. In February, Amada and her husband Munem
decided to take advantage of the winter school vacation to let their daughters,
Sarah, 17, and Haneen, 18, spend some time with relatives who live across town.
Since the occupation, it's been difficult for extended families in Baghdad to
stay in touch, so this was to be a special occasion.
On the morning of Feb. 3, 2005, Haneen and Sarah, father Munem, and mother
Amada piled into the gray 1986 Volkswagen that Munem uses to support his family
as a taxi driver.
Many people in Baghdad employ their own cars as taxis in order to make ends
meet, and Munem uses his 20-year-old taxi to feed his family and put a roof
over their heads – although the rented house his family lives in lacks even
a door or glass windows.
That day, with her husband Munem at the wheel, Amada Saria and her family slowly
made their way through the crowded streets of West Baghdad toward the Airport
Highway. As they turned the last corner before the highway entrance, five shots
The shots came from a group of American Humvees huddled near the highway underpass.
The troops had opened fire without warning on the family's car from 90 feet
Amada was sitting in the passenger seat. One of the bullets that pierced the
windshield struck her in the head.
for a larger version)
The troops stood by watching as an Iraqi police car took Amada Saria and her
family to the nearby al-Yarmouk Hospital. When Amada arrived at the hospital's
emergency room, she was already near death. Outside the entrance to the ER,
Munem, his clothes soaked in the blood from his wife's head wound, paced relentlessly
and eventually collapsed from grief and exhaustion.
By then, Amada's two teenage daughters had become so hysterical that they had
to be heavily sedated by the hospital staff.
Although their mother was transferred to another hospital for neurosurgery,
she died later that day. Amada Saria was 48 years old.
In addition to her daughters and husband, Amada Saria also leaves behind a
20-year-old son, Hassan. The family picture below was taken shortly before her
family still lives in their windowless rented house in West Baghdad. Munem works
odd jobs trying to get some money to repair his taxi. Without his wife, he is
struggling alone to pay the rent and care for his youngest daughter Sarah, who
now suffers from severe clinical depression that keeps her from attending school
or otherwise leading a normal life.
Several weeks before this article went to press, we provided the U.S. Army
with the photographic and factual details used in this story. We also alerted
the Army to the fact that Amada Saria's extended family includes American citizens,
and asked them to comment on whether the combat rules of engagement had been
followed in the case of her death.
The Army did not reply to our repeated detailed inquiries. In the three months
since Amada's death, neither her brother Sam in Connecticut nor her husband
Munem in West Baghdad have received an explanation or any other contact from
the U.S. authorities.
This report was made possible by "Mariam," a Baghdad correspondent. "Mariam"
(a pseudonym) is an Iraqi woman who provided photographs and in-person interviews
for this report at her own expense, at times exposing herself to significant
Additional assistance was provided by the Mandaean
Associations Union, an international charitable organization of and for
Mandaeans, providing help to Mandaean people in need worldwide, such as the
family of Amada Saria in Baghdad.