posted by: nicksmom03 in General on April 24th, 2009
Inside a tall rectangular box are hundreds of pairs of children’s shoes. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that each pair has a small card attached to it. A pair of tiny pink flowered sandals bears the card, “Nada, daughter of Leila Zechi, age 6, Gunfire, Latefiya, 7/22/04″
This small, free-standing installation was created by Code Pink: Women for Peace, an anti-war group founded in 2002 during the time leading up to the war in Iraq. They describe themselves as a “grassroots peace and social justice movement” whose mission is “to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities.” Since their inception, they have staged several large-scale peace marches, protests, and demonstrations and have even sent delegations to Iraq.
The Walk in Their Shoes memorial is meant to be a visual representation of the human losses during this war. Each pair of shoes represents a child who has died in the war. More than 20 of these installations have been erected around the country. I took photos of this one on a visit to Washington D.C. a few weeks ago. Here are a few more photos, click on them to make them larger.
In the bottom two photos, you can see the sheer number of shoes inside the memorial. In the right photo, the names of the children are visible, printed on the glass. Regardless of your feelings about the war, this is a striking sight, particularly when you remember that there are 20 more of these. I think that a lot of the information that we hear about US operations abroad are discussed in terms of financial cost rather than human cost. This memorial certainly drives the facts about the sheer number of human losses home and it does so through a medium that is familiar to everyone: that of shoes. It is a reminder of the horrors of war.
A sign posted near the memorial gave statistics on the losses:
“According to a 2006 mortality survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University, an estimated 600,000 Iraqi civilians died from violence since the U.S. invasion in March of 2003. Most recent estimates have put the Iraqi death toll due to violence at between 734,000 to 1.4 million.
Shoes, like this pair representing the 3-year-old daughter of Hussein al Tarish, help people visualize the unspeakable pain and suffering this war has inflicted on the Iraqi people. Every pair of shoes contained in this memorial was labeled and donated by peace activists from all over the U.S. The labels document the age, name, and cause of death of innocent Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives since the tragic U.S. military invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.
The war has internally displaced two million people and forced over two million to flee Iraq. Most refugees are in Syria and Jordan – which host the largest number of refugees per capita of any country. The vast majority are surviving with little or no assistance from the international community. Few, if any, enjoy their rights as refugees.”
The memorial also makes reference to the now infamous shoe-throwing incident at former President Bush’s farewell meeting in Iraq. As is well known, Muntadar al-Zaidi threw a shoe at President Bush as Bush described American achievements in Iraq. Zaidi is said to have shouted “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.” On one side, a small sign reads “Thank you Muntadar al-Zaidi.” A letter signed by several peace-keeping organizations is posted next to it. It declares Zaidi a hero for his actions and describes outrage over his being held and beaten in an Iraqi prison. The letter is dated December 18th, 2008. Since then, al-Zaidi has been sentenced to one year in prision, a significantly shorter term than was originally expected.