The Martyrs’ Wall

Martyrs' Wall, Batha, Irak

“And they found therein a wall about to collapse, so al-Khidh restored it.”

It is fall and early in the morning. I have left the house to go to work. I know exactly what I will find every step of the way, for I have been following the same route every day for the last five years.

Just across from where I live, stands a pumping station. In front of its iron gate, sits the compound’s security guard, who is always on the alert for intruders. I greet him, continue walking and pass by Sulman’s and Hasan’s workshops, the blacksmith and the carpenter. I then cross the muddy area verging on the city park and my shoes get dirty. I reach the garage with the white fence, whose paint has started to flake. Next to it, stands a wall that is covered with pictures of martyrs. Most of them are wearing military uniforms, carrying guns and smiling. Some have even been portrayed leaning against tanks. They appear to be glowing.

I greet them as well, like always. Suddenly, I notice there is a new picture hanging from the wall. I get closer to it and read its caption.

“Musa Naim died a heroic death fighting for his country and his beliefs in Gat.”

I immediately feel the urge to ask the guy in the picture whether he has been killed by a sniper, in close combat or by an explosive device.

There is another picture glued to the wall that not only specifies the guy’s name and the day he died, but also how he departed this world. Apparently, he was shot in the head and thrown into the river from a cliff along with many others while unarmed and trying to flee. Thanks to the current, which dragged his body away until it reached the territories controlled by the government, he was later found and given a proper burial.

I used to know one of the guys whose picture can be seen on the wall from back in the day. He used to be a real head-turner and a total hit with the ladies. Even now, after his death, girls stop to gawk at his picture. Some even shed a tear or two for all of the beauty that has gone to waste with his tragic demise.

And then, there is the picture of Abu Karar, my old friend. He always used to carry a bullet in his pocket, in order to avoid being captured alive. However, it seems like, last minute, he backed out, unable to pull the trigger, for he was later beaten up and paraded around town by the enemy, before being hanged by the neck from a bridge. At the very least, we made sure he was avenged.

The story the pictures tell may not pride itself on the fancy words and slick imagery philosophers and poets use, but I think it still manages to resonate with all of us, as it is that of human suffering.


Written by Yosef Hadday.