Ghazia Ahmed al Jabouri, who’s seen three sons die as a result of Iraq’s wars, almost lost a fourth during the Islamic State’s race across Iraq this summer. His survival underscores the random role that luck – good and bad – plays in the lives of Iraqis.
Nimr had joined the army in 2004. When the Islamic State captured Mosul last June 10, Nimr, a sniper, was based at Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base near Saddam Hussein’s birthplace of Tikrit.
As the Islamic State approached Tikrit on June 12, Nimr’s senior officers told soldiers and cadets that they should change into civilian clothing and go home. Nimr and members of his unit joined hundreds of others heading for the gates to cadge rides on the highway outside.
But at the last moment, members of the Golden Brigade, an elite army commando unit, intercepted them. As Nimr’s brother Ali tells it, the Golden Brigade warned the soldiers not to leave the base.
“The Golden Brigade told them, ‘Don’t leave. Daash is waiting for you,’ ” said Ali, using an Arabic term for the Islamic State.
It was lifesaving advice. Hundreds of those who walked out of Camp Speicher were swept up by the Islamic State and its allies, beaten and slaughtered in mass executions that the extremists recorded and posted to YouTube. It was perhaps the greatest massacre of the war.
Nimr is now deployed at the university in Tikrit, where the army and the Islamic State are battling for control.
Last month, while he was visiting Baghdad, Nimr wrote insulting Facebook posts about the fanatics’ shadowy leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The comments might have jeopardized five of Jabouri’s sons who still live in Mosul, under the Islamic State’s despotic rule.
“They got angry at the comment, so there are tensions within the family. They live in hell,” she said of her sons in Mosul.