Thursday, February 03, 2005

No Title - No Words

I sat in a waiting room yesterday, reading an 8-month old Sports Illustrated article praising Pat Tillman, the NFL player who was Killed in Action in Afghanistan. Here's the rest of a different story you may not have heard. It's taken from an unreferenced newspaper article on another site. I trust this source.

Amar was 19, but he had the mind of a four-year-old. This handicap didn't stop the insurgency's hard men as they strapped explosives to his chest and guided him to a voting centre in suburban Al-Askan. And before yesterday's sunrise in Baghdad, his grieving parents loaded his broken remains on the roof of a taxi to lead a sorrowful procession to the holy city of Najaf. There, they gave him a ceremonial wash, shrouded him inwhite cotton and buried him next to the shrine of Imam Ali, the founder of their Shiite creed. On Sunday we witnessed an act of collective courage by an estimated 8 million Iraqis as they faced down terrorist threats of death and mayhem to vote in Iraq's first multi-party election in half a century. But the election day story of Amar is from the other side of human behaviour - in a region where too many have knowingly volunteered for an explosive death in the name of their god. He was chosen because he didn't know. He had Down syndrome or, as the Iraqis say, he's a mongoli, and when his parents, Ahmed, 42, and Fatima, 40, went to vote with their two daughters Amar was left in the family home.They presume that in their absence he set out to fill his day as he always did - wandering the streets of the neighbourhood until, usually, a friend or neighbour would bring him home around dusk. Al-Askan is a mixed and dangerous suburb. Yesterday the Iraqi police allowed The Age to advance only a few blocks into the area before ordering us out.The area around the family's home was the centre of a running gunfightbetween Shiites of the Al-Bahadel tribe and Sunnis of the Al-Ghedi tribe. But one of Amar's cousins, a 29-year-old teacher who asked not to be named, retreated to a distracted state in which Iraqis often discuss death to tell their story as best they can. "They must have kidnapped him," he said. "He was like a baby. He had nothing to do with the resistance and there was nothing in the house for him to make a bomb. He was Shiite. Why bomb his own people?" He was mindless, but he was mostly happy, laughing and playing with the children in the street. Now, his father is inconsolable; his mother cries all the time," the teacher said. After voting at 7.30am, Amar's parents joined their extended family for a celebration that became a lunch of chicken and rice, soup and orange juice, at the home of a relative.The sound of the explosion interrupted the party. But, the cousin said, it was assumed to be a mortar shell, a follow-up to the barrage across the city in the first hours of voting." Everyone was very happy and excited, but news came that a mongoli had been a bomber. Ahmed and Fatima became distressed and they raced home. They got neighbours to search and one of them identified Amar's head where it lay on the pavement and his body was broken into pieces." I have heard of them using dead people and donkeys and dogs to hide theirbombs, but how could they do this to a boy like Amar?" Apparently, Amar triggered the bomb before he got to the intended target. It exploded while he was crossing open ground. Amar's father served in Saddam's army, but now he sells cigarettes in a street market in Al-Askan, an area of the city that also displayed braveryin the casting of votes on Sunday.