Youssif (burn victim)

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Youssif (last name unknown)
Born (2002-10-14) October 14, 2002 (age 14)
Baghdad, Iraq
Residence Los Angeles, United States
Nationality Iraqi
Citizenship Iraqi, American
Education 9th grade
Years active 2007-present
Organization CNN, Children's Burn Foundation, Grossman Medical Center
Known for Facial burns, worldwide compassion
Home town Baghdad
Height Approximately 4'3"
Weight Approximate 90.5 lb.
Television CNN

Youssif (last name unknown) (born October 14, 2002), is a 14-year-old Iraqi boy who was set on fire by unknown masked men outside of his central Baghdad home on January 15, 2007.


On January 15, 2007, while playing outside his Baghdad home, Youssif was approached by masked men who proceeded to pour gasoline on him, set him on fire, and flee, leaving then-4-year-old Youssif to burn.[1] After the attack, Youssif's father spent nine months trying to obtain medical care in Iraq to treat his son's scarring, without success.[2] Doctors in Iraq told the family that there was little they could do to help and that the family's only option was to seek treatment outside Iraq, an option they simply could not afford.[1]

Eventually, after being told they could help, Youssif's father visited CNN's Baghdad bureau to ask for advice on how to help his son. In doing so, Youssif's parents risked their safety. When asked by CNN why they took such a risk, Youssif's mother, Zainab, responded: "I'd prefer death than seeing my son like this."[1]

In August 2007, CNN's Arwa Damon reported on Youssif's story on CNN and, which resulted in an international outpouring of support for the boy, with thousands across the world expressing willingness to donate to help him and his family.[3][4][5][6] The story went on to become one of the most-read, non-breaking news stories in's 12-year history.[3]

No arrests have ever been made in connection with the attack.[1]


The California-based Children's Burn Foundation arranged for and agreed to pay for transportation, medical, and housing costs for Youssif and his family.[2][5] Dr. Peter Grossman, of the Sherman Oaks Grossman Burn Center, volunteered to perform the necessary surgeries for free.[7] Since a fund was established by CNN and the Children's Burn Foundation, over $300,000 has been donated.[8] When Youssif's father received the news in Baghdad, he told CNN's Arwa Damon, "I feel like I am going to fly from happiness." Youssif was also cheered by the news, excitedly running around his house saying, "Daddy, daddy, am I really going to get on a plane?!"[3]

Youssif, his father, mother, and baby sister arrived in the United States on September 11, 2007.[9] Youssif's first surgery was performed on Thursday, September 20, 2007.[10]

Progress and Recovery[edit]

Since 2007, Youssif has undergone fifteen surgeries.[8] Youssif's biggest scar was removed in his second surgery on November 29, 2007.[11] Just before the operation, Youssif became struck with panic, crying "I can't do this. I can't do this." The surgery, however, was pronounced a success by Dr. Grossman and his team.[11]

Youssif's second surgery resulted in some short-term complications.[12][13] Just hours after Youssif's family began celebrating a successful surgery, they found his bedsheets soaked in blood. Dr. Grossman and his team immediately returned to the operating room and found that the source of the bleeding was an arterial blood vessel, which was brought under control in just thirty minutes. Youssif, however, was rushed back to the operating room for the third time in twenty-four hours due to further bleeding, this time from an arterial blood vessel on the other side of his face. Dr. Grossman had to re-open Youssif's stitches—around 60 to 100 of them—to locate the source of the bleeding, a process that lasted almost two hours. By the next day, Youssif's recovery was back on track.[12] Youssif's father described his fear when he discovered Youssif covered in blood, telling CNN, "I said to myself, 'This is it. I'm going to lose my son.'"[12]

The long-term effects of the surgery were highly successful. Two days after the surgery, Youssif expressed happiness at his progress, proudly announcing "Look, Daddy, my mouth is open! I can fit the whole fork into it and I can take big bites!" he said. On the day he was dispatched from hospital, he said, "I can see all my teeth! I can stick my tongue out all the way!" he said to his dad while waiting to leave the hospital. Dr. Grossman expressed sympathy for Youssif's parents, saying, "I wish I could have avoided them going through an emotional roller-coaster."[12]

Youssif began attending an American school January 2008. He happily pulls off his plastic face mask and pats his cheeks, which were once covered by horrific burns. "No hurt," the 5-year-old Iraqi boy says in English on February 26, 2008.[14]

Before his attack, Youssif told his parents he wished to become a doctor. Youssif told CNN's Sanjay Gupta that he continues to hold this dream on the August 14, 2010 special edition of Sanjay Gupta MD. When asked why he wanted to be a doctor, Youssif responded, "to help people".[8] Youssif's parents continue to support his dream, telling CNN, "We want our son to go places that we couldn't even dream of."[8]

Youssif's stay in California and his progress throughout his surgeries is being chronicled on a regular basis by There is also a Facebook page that is dedicated to him entitled "Youssef's Fund" which was put together by Eman Eshmawy and Justin Surmast.[citation needed]

As of December 2011, Youssif and his family are living in Los Angeles and working to obtain US citizenships.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d "'Boy, 5, set on fire, doused by masked men'". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Father of burned boy: "Anything for Youssif"". CNN. August 23, 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c "'Help is on the way for Youssif'". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "'Pitching in for Youssif'". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "'Help for Youssif'". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  6. ^ "'Your emails: 'Miracles still happen'". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  7. ^ "'Doctor tells Youssif: We'll make you a lot better'". CNN. September 14, 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d "'Sanjay Gupta MD, August 14: transcript'". Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "Youssif arrives in America". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  10. ^ "Youssif's surgery "went well", doctor says". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  11. ^ a b "Surgery over: Youssif's biggest scar removed". CNN. December 19, 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Youssif OK after complications". CNN. December 19, 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "Complications for Youssif". CNN. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  14. ^ Youssif rubs face with hands, says 'no hurt' 2/26/2008
  15. ^ December 2011 video update on Youssif, Dec. 6, 2011