The men of the Shia militias who helped rescue the Iraqi government army as Isis advanced on Baghdad complain bitterly that their government cares little for them
The moment the 54-year-old walks up to the car, it is obvious something is terribly wrong. The way he drags his feet, then stamps them on the ground and marches forward like a toy soldier, head lowered; then the way he looks up at you from beneath dark brows, in both greeting and concern. Taamy Wahab Mohamed al-Yasaari should have returned from the Isis battlefront to a land fit for heroes.
For the Shia Muslims of southern Iraq, he counts among the heroes. When I ask him when he was wounded, he looks and stares at the wall in a distressed way, dark eyes framed by thick black hair but white beard. “Several times I was wounded,” al-Yasaari says. And you can tell that the bullets and shrapnel have framed a diary in his mind. “On 28 April 2015 at Bayji, on 3 July 2015, again at Bayji, on 5 May 2016 on the Makhoul mountains near Tikrit, then on 3 July 2017 at Khalidiya in Anbar province.” It was the last wound which did for him.
“I was leading a company of the Ali Akbar brigade into an attack on the enemy, and an Isis sniper shot me in the head. His bullet hit me in the back of the brain.” And here al-Yasaari puts his left hand to the back of his head. “I lost part of my skull and words are very difficult for me now. My memories are very difficult. I regret nothing. I followed the fatwa of our leader [ayatollah Ali al-Sistani]. Look, here are my wounds.”
And the staring eyes of al-Yasaari look at me as he rolls up his trousers to show scars and great searing cuts across his legs. There is a terrible mark on his calf, as if someone has sawed away at the flesh. He had paid the price of following Sistani’s fatwa – to fight a “defensive war” against Isis after the Islamist capture of Mosul in 2014 – and it is clear that today he thinks of little else.