Ballad of the Al​-​Ameriya shelter

from The Family of Man by Karl Dallas

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about

When I was one of 300 Human Shield volunteers who went to Iraq in 2003 in a failed attempt to prevent the Anglo-American invasion, we were taken to visit the bombsite of the Al-Ameriya shelter, destroyed by a US bunker bomb during the first Gulf War killing more than 400 civilians. Apart from the horror of the event, with the hands of the victims burned indelibly on the walls of the shelter by the intense heat of the carnage, what struck me was the sight of Iraqi kids playing around the gates on their bikes and scooters, as if the horror never happened. Their play struck me as a sign of hope in the future, still unfulfilled ten years later. I sang the song to my fellow Shields immediately after composition, and then on Iraqi TV. The song was sung brilliantly by Jon Harvison in my play, performed at various West Yorkshire venues in 2005.
For more information on this atrocity go to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiriyah_shelter_bombing.

lyrics

Children are playing round the gates of the Al-Ameriya shelter
People are praying by the hole where the laser bomb came through
There are bloody burnt shadows from the bodies that melted
A monument demands to know what we will do

But the children are playing with untroubled eyes
Dead women and children are resting in Paradise
The killers are sleeping secure in their beds
And the whole world is crying, remembering our dead.

On a February night in Nineteen-ninetyone
The people took refuge from United States bombs
Reconnaissance planes had pin-pointed the target
And now we stand silent, we shall never forget

But the children are playing with untroubled eyes
Dead women and children are resting in Paradise
The killers are sleeping secure in their beds
And the whole world is crying, remembering our dead.

The first bomb penetrated the thick concrete bunker
And the steel doors crashed shut with a noise like thunder
The fire-bomb followed and it burnt up the air:
Inside the shelter four hundred died there

Oh-oh-h, the dead of the Al-Ameria shelter
Oh-oh-h, no use to weep and to mourn
Oh-oh-h, don't pretend you are helpless
Oh-oh-h, we must fight for those yet unborn

This wasn't an accident, a by-product of war
But deliberate terror, carefully planned and what's more
Each one who died was a victim of murder
And the guilt are planning worse crimes in our name

But the children are playing with untroubled eyes
Dead women and children are resting in Paradise
The killers are sleeping secure in their beds
And the whole world is crying, remembering our dead.

The youngest to die was just forty days young
A woman seventy-five, all her days had been sung
Each one a life precious, with lives left to live
Cut off in their prime; how can we forgive?

But the children are playing with untroubled eyes
Dead women and children are resting in Paradise
The killers are sleeping secure in their beds
And the whole world is crying, remembering our dead.

All we who remain have a duty to try
Not only to stop bombs that fall from the sky
It's life and life only we stand to defend
Remembering the dead and their bitter end

But the children are playing with untroubled eyes
Dead women and children are resting in Paradise
The killers are sleeping secure in their beds
And the whole world is crying, remembering our dead.

Oh-oh-h, the dead of the Al-Ameria shelter
Oh-oh-h, no use to weep and to mourn
Oh-oh-h, don't pretend you are helpless
Oh-oh-h, we must fight for those yet unborn

credits

from The Family of Man, released August 25, 2012

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all rights reserved

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