Saturday, December 04, 2004


The Poet's Grandson

Amir was a young military officer. He was a captain in the old Iraqi army before it was disbanded. He joined the resistance in July of last year.

A few days ago, he and eleven others set up an ambush for a US army convoy. It was said that they had hit and destroyed six Hummers. It so happened that another, unexpected convoy came from the opposite direction and the group was over-powered. There was a lot of fire from both sides. The team withdrew. All the others made it to their rendezvous point except Amir. They couldn't go back and check on him while it was light, so they waited for nightfall. They found him dead.

Shakir was a young police officer in the old police force. He joined the new Iraqi Police force several months ago.

A few times he was warned by the "resistance" to quit. He didn't pay attention. Last month, his brother was kidnapped and then released a few days later with a warning message to Shakir, but Shakir didn't pay heed. A few days ago he was attacked while at home by several masked men with guns. They killed him and set fire to his car.

Amir and Shakir were distant cousins. They both lived in the same area in the countryside. They died within two days of each other. Some people may find it quite ironic, perhaps even incomprehensible, that Amir was a Shiite and Shakir was a Sunni!!

I was told of the two stories when I went to the farm yesterday. I didn't know either of the two young men personally, but I knew Amir's grandfather, Fadhil, rather well. Fadhil is a poet of some renown locally - quite an outspoken old man made of tough material. He is well over 80, judging by the events he remembers from his childhood. I had missed the Fat-ha [A reception of three days' duration where people go to express condolences to the deceased's kin]. So, on my way back to Baghdad, I stopped by Fadhil's home.

I found the old man sitting on a rug, outside his home, enjoying the afternoon sun. He was busy talking to a beautiful boy of around 5 – his great-grandson… Amir's only son.

I always enjoy chatting with Fadhil; he is usually full of stories. He has had a full life. Yesterday, he was so full of himself remembering how they fought the British in 1941 and must have recited more than a hundred lines of his poetry in the hour and a half I spent with him. He was so proud that many people from so many far way places came to Amir's fat-ha. It was so busy and full of people coming and going… unlike Shakir's!

He recited the poem he was busy teaching the little boy when I arrived. It was in praise of his grandson, Amir, and how he will always be remembered as a hero in these parts. When I told him that the boy was probably too young for all this and that he is not likely to remember the poem, he simply said: "He will. I will make sure that he does before I die!"

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