Letters to a Father Who Was Lost Guffran is a 9-year-old Baghdad girl. Her father was killed five months ago in a carjacking. When he was alive, she enjoyed writing letters to him and leaving them around their house for him to find. She's still writing him letters.
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Letters to a Father Who Was Lost

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Letters to a Father Who Was Lost

Letters to a Father Who Was Lost

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The daily violence in Iraq can be numbing sometimes, but the misery of one little girl pierces the barriers we've built between us and all that death and pain. NPR's Anne Garrels has this report.

ANNE GARRELS: Her name is Guffran. It means forgiveness. But as she clenches her fist, this frail-looking nine-year-old mutters vows of revenge and invokes judgment day for the men who killed her father.

GUFFRAN: (Through translator) If I were a man, I would search for them, chase them down. I would place a bomb in every terrorist's home. I would become a fighter of terrorists because I want to defend my country. I love my people. They love one another and protect one another. In our neighborhood, if a stranger enters, we immediately fire gunshots so he'll run away. And at night, we block the road so no car can enter, because we're afraid.

GARRELS: But her father was in another neighborhood when gunmen stopped him, dragged him from the car and shot him. A typical Baghdad carjacking. Guffran is convinced they stole the car to use it as a bomb. She scans the news looking for its two familiar lines.

Five months later, Guffran still can't believe her father is gone forever. The letters she used to regularly write him are also gone.

GUFFRAN: (Through translator) I loved him and I told him to keep the letters with him always. He took the letters, kissed them, and put them in his pocket. He kept them in the car with him, and they disappeared when the car was taken. I'm so sorry because they reminded me of my father.

GARRELS: Her voice breaks as she stifles a sob. Her letters were about the terror that has gripped this country, the senseless, brutal terror. She wrote about her confusion, her fears, her faith in her father and her faith in God, and she still writes him with an eloquence far beyond her years. She keeps a pen clipped to her blouse tucked under her white, flowing headscarf.

GUFRAN: (Through translator) When my mother and aunt start crying, I move to another room and start writing letters and cry deep inside as I write.

GARRELS: The words pour out in a torrent.

GUFFRAN: (Through translator) What can I say about the situation of my beloved Iraq? Iraq of date palms and trees. The trees are now polluted like the air by car bombs and roadside bombs.

GARRELS: She goes back and edits what she's written, crossing out some words, adding others. All for a father who will never read them. But she hopes perhaps the terrorists can hear her pain.

GUFFRAN: (Through translator) But they could open their minds a little, start to have brains and reason, because they're out of their mind. They have evaded punishment for now, but on Judgment Day God will take revenge on them.

GARRELS: Her father inhabits her waking hours and her dreams. She has visions he's still alive, comforting her. But then she wakes up.

GUFFRAN: (Through translator) I feel my heart will break when I remember him.

GARRELS: Guffran's mother says her daughter now fears those who killed her father will come for her.

Unidentified Woman (Mother): (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Woman: (Through translator) She tells me, momma, the terrorists will come after me. They know my name. Momma, they know my name from the letters they found with him. They know it's me, Guffran, who wrote them. They will come to get me. I tell her, no, daughter, how could they know it was you?

GARRELS: Guffran also fears for the rest of her family.

GUFFRAN: (Through translator) I don't let my mother go out on her own. I go with her, so that if someone wants to kidnap her I'll be there. Although I'm just a kid, I can at least cry for help or tell people what happened so the police would chase down the kidnappers.

GARRELS: Her every day is punctuated by fear.

Unidentified Woman (Mother): (Through translator) When she heard about her father's death, she threw herself on the ground, tossing in the mud, screaming, why, why? She's still in shock. She can't eat. She can't sleep. She keeps asking why, why was he killed? Why are people getting killed?

GARRELS: Guffran is afraid for her brother because his name is Hider(ph), a name that instantly marks him as a Shiite.

GUFFRAN: (Through translator) The terrorists target people because of their IDs. And we love Hider. He is our man now.

GARRELS: Their mother has hidden his government issued ID. The gunman who killed her father stole whatever peace Guffran still had. And they also stole her dreams of fulfilling her father's dearest wish, that she would one day be a doctor. Without him the family's been thrown into poverty, living on handouts from relatives. Anne Garrels, NPR News, Baghdad.

WERTHEIMER: Our thanks to Israel Rubei(ph) for her help on this story.

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