Sari’s Mother, 2006

As in Eva Mulvad and Anja Al-Erhayem’s Enemies of Happiness, James Longley’s Sari’s Mother, the edited “fourth fragment” from Iraq in Fragments, is a sobering portrait of the pervasive confusion and uncertainty that continues to define everyday life under postwar occupation, and its unseen toll on the weakest and most vulnerable. In this segment, Longley chronicles the travails of a village mother whose ten year-old son, Sari, contracted AIDS as a child from a blood transfusion, and is now slowly wasting away from the ravages of the incurable disease. Debilitated by chronic lethargy which prevents him from attending school, Sari spends his days bed-ridden, rising only briefly to receive his (seemingly arbitrarily) prescribed injections that must be administered by his mother, unable to find appropriate medical personnel who can perform the regular treatments for her son. The travails in obtaining proper medical care for her child prove even more frustrating at the hospital, where overworked doctors, often determining the latest course of treatment from incomplete medical histories and disorganized paperwork, continue to prescribe regimens that have already proved to be ineffective or induce serious reactions. Evoking Moussa Bathily’s Le Certificat d’indigence in its harrowing portrayal of the figurative breakdown of a health care system that has lost its sense of purpose under the weight of procedural (in)efficiency and petty bureaucracy, Sari’s Mother is an impassioned and potent reminder that, even in its resigned inevitability, dying with dignity is still a fundamental human right.

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