When Samar Hassan and her family were on their way back from an Iraqi hospital one evening in January 2005, she could never have guessed that she and her five siblings would be heading back there again so quickly. US troops gunned down her parents – in their car – before her very eyes.
After her family's small sedan came under fire by US soldiers while traveling through the town of Tal Afar, Iraq, photojournalist Chris Hondros took a series of photographs depicting the aftermath. These photos found their way onto the front page of every notable newspaper in the world within a day's time. The most infamous photograph is of a five-year-old Samar crying out in immeasurable grief while surrounded by the bloodied boots of her parents' killers.
In 2011, New York Times journalists visited the then 12-year-old Samar to catch up on her story, and they showed her the series of photographs for the very first time - including the image of her that shocked the world and brought the conversation surrounding the war in Iraq to a head. And she was shocked again by what she saw.
Samar Hassan Had Never Seen The Photograph Taken Of Her That Shocked The World
"He was taking pictures of me, I remember. Then he stopped, and they brought me a jacket and put me in the truck and treated the wound on my hand. And they gave me some toys," remembered Samar while discussing the event with New York Times journalist Tim Arango.
Just over six years after her parents were suddenly killed in front of her and her siblings, Samar finally had the chance to view the photograph for herself, taken moments after the life changing event occurred. Despite the image being innately traumatic, she expressed that she understood its inherent impact as it was a way to clearly show the world “the sad thing that is happening in Iraq.”
Her Brother Was Injured During The Shooting And Killed In Another Attack Years Later
Luckily, Samar and most of her siblings only sustained minimal physical injuries from the attack; however, her brother, Rakan, was seriously wounded in his back and required substantial treatment, which (after the photographs of the attack made their way across the world) he received at a hospital in Boston, MA, thanks to the assistance of an American aid worker named Marla Ruzicka. Sadly, only a few years after recovering from this attack, Rakan was killed during an insurgent attack.
After the attack, Samar began living in a small two-story house with her extended family in Mosul where she and her siblings began recovering from the trauma of their parents' killing. Nathir Bashir Ali, who helps care for the children, explained how he has "taken them many times to the hospital, where they get pills... all of them take pills,” as the emotional impact of the event continues to stay with them.
Samar Hassan And Her Siblings Were Returning From The Hospital With Their Parents When Their Car Came Under Rapid Gun Fire By US Soldiers
Just before taking the series of photographs that got Hondros booted from his assignment as an embedded journalist in Iraq (the US military was very particular about who was allowed to be taking photographs in the war zone), the Hassan family had been driving back from the local hospital where they had been seeking treatment for their sick son. Suddenly, as they approached a US military patrol, their vehicle came under rapid fire as the soldiers suspected that the vehicle, out past curfew, may have been a car bomb.
Apparently, the two US soldiers patrolling that area had waved their arms and flashed their lights at the Hassan's car, indicating that they should stop - and in a final effort to halt their approach fired off warning shots in the air. When the car still didn't stop, the soldiers fired off over 100 rounds each from their M249s into the car.
“My mother and father were killed, just like that," remembered Samar, who was only five years old at the time. After the vehicle rolled to a stop against a curb, the soldiers heard the cries of the children still inside the vehicle.
The Hassan Family Was Paid $7,500 In Reparations By The US Military
The tragic scene was forever captured by Chris Hondros's camera – from the moment that the six children were taken out of the car, lined up against a wall, and carried into the ambulance that would take them back to the hospital from which they had just came. However, it wasn't just the physical wounds that the children would have to endure, but the psychological and emotional impact of having their parents brutally taken from them by the horrors of war.
After Hondros's photographs of the killings hit international new circuits, public outcry against the actions taken by the US military forced a response. As a result, the US military offered the Hassan family a total of $7,500 USD to compensate them for their loss.