Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

One Year Memorial Tribute: Sheikh Haitham Al-Ansari 1971-2004

Sheikh Haitham Al-Ansari الشيخ الشهيد هيثم الأنصاري

This is what I wrote on January 6, 2005:

Evil men trampled on one of God's flowers that had been planted in His good earth. Sheikh Haithem Nayif Ahmed Al-Ansari, 33, was walking to Friday prayers from his Baghdad home on December 31, when a gray BMW slowed down and sprayed him with a machine gun. One of the assailants then disembarked and hunched over the writhing body while emptying the rest of the magazine into my friend's head.

Haithem was both kindred spirit and close friend to me. His political affiliations were contradictory, and many sides will claim him as one of their own. Good, many sides will be out to avenge him. The crime of his murder has many possible leads, and that is due to the list of enemies Haithem chose to keep: Baathists, Wahhabis, and assorted regional intelligence services. A lamb in demeanor and a lion at heart, his loss made Iraq less of a home for me to get back to. Tall, thin, his movie-star face was ignited by fiery green eyes and offset by the sweet melancholy smile of a mystic. Since we had met and began working together three years ago, our conversations invariably started with "Is it possible that you are still alive? God must have a sense of humor." Haithem was a hero, and it may still be early to recount publicly his victories against evil. He was a Shia mullah grappling with existential issues of personal faith in God, but he had no illusions about fighting evil in all its guises. What a horrible loss. Haithem, in your release from the hard circumstances of the battles you chose to fight, has your spirit made it to Paris? He had wanted to see Paris before he died.


Haitham, I take solace from what I’ve heard from better friends that me; you have been fully avenged. What we had worked for, and what he had hoped for, is imperiled. We never thought it would turn out like this. I still have that conversation recorded on my cell-phone; your voice, your laughter and that comfort that comes from a long friendship, lost and sorely missed in these dark days. I went to the spot where you’d been killed. It is back to being the storefront of some neighborhood grocery. But your memory lives on in all the lives you have touched, and your four kids are growing-up and bearing your name. But the further I seek, the less likely that your place can ever be filled.

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