This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

A Team Called Peace

"He was a little tall with long hair and he looked different. He was wearing a thick jacket and it was hot. He spoke to us. He said, 'It's a good game, isn't it'?"
"Then he blew himself up, and I felt a fire hit my face. And then I ran away."
Anmar al-Janabi, 12, Asriya, Iraq

"He [his 13-year-old son Karrar] told me he was going to be a goalkeeper for the first time, and he asked me to bring him some gloves."
"But I was working, and I couldn't leave."
Abbas Ali al-Idani, security guard, Asriya, Iraq

"We found pieces of children. There was human flesh all over the ground."
"It was like the end of the world."
Ibtisam Hamid, father of 16-year-old Walid, dead
An image taken from blurry footage that purportedly shows the moment a suicide bomber blew himself up at a ceremony after a soccer match in Al-Asriya, Iraq on March 25, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)
A blurry image captured from a video still of a suicide blast on March 25, in Asriya, Iraq

On March 25, in a small town not far from Baghdad, all of the boys living in the mixed Sunni-Shiite village of Asriya, an impoverished village in an embattled country, gathered at a playing field for a competitive game of soccer, beloved of the village youth. A final soccer game was being played. There was a team called Ahli and another team called Salam, peace. Spectators stood around the field perimeter, and officials sat on chairs placed on a small podium at the field's edge.

Among the spectators was a 12-year-old boy whom no one seemed to recognize. And despite that he was wearing a thick jacket and it was a warm spring evening where everyone else was wearing T-shirts, no one seemed to notice. Anmar al-Janabi had noticed, but it didn't occur to him to mention anything to any of the few adults present. At the finish of the match the boy wearing the jacket moved along with the other boys toward the podium to witness the trophy awards.

Tamara Adel, 10, with her brother, Ahmed Adel, 5, holds medals won by her soccer-player brother, Walid Adel, 16, who was killed in the March 25 suicide bombing at the soccer field in Asriya. (Ahmad Mousa Qasem/For The Washington Post)

At the field where the village boys played their games daily, a young boy committed suicide and in the process took the lives of 43 people, 29 of whom were boys younger than 17, participating in the match, or watching their friends play. Mr. al-Idani, just come off his work shift, preparing to leave for the field, heard the blast and feared the worst. He had stopped by a store to buy the gloves his son had asked for.

Parents, brothers, uncles, grandparents, all streamed and sprinted the short distance from their homes, alarmed at the  sound of the blast, toward the playing field. Once there, a tangle of dead children greeted them, body parts and blood everywhere. Idani's son Karrar had been taken to hospital before his father reached the soccer pitch. And he died before his father could see him.

And the match outcome? The team called Peace won the match, 1-0. In the sake of peace and sanity what could conceivably have convinced a twelve-year-old boy to sacrifice his life, and to carry away with his blasted body parts, the companionship of so many other people? The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been busy instilling allegiance to martyrdom and killing into the minds of vulnerable children, persuading them that they do the work of Islam, proudly as heroes.

The town, living amicably together, Shiite and Sunni residents alike, obviously were insulting tradition that insists on the big heritage divide, in the process earning the tragedy that befell them.

Ahmed Khazaal, 12, shows his Barcelona team jersey, left, and the Real Madrid jersey of his brother, Mohaned Khazaal, 10, who was killed by a teenage suicide bomber in a village south of Baghdad. (Ahmad Mousa Qasem/For The Washington Post)

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