By Alec Rooney
The video was even more heartbreaking than most coming out of Syria.
Posted on the mirror.uk newspaper web site, it claims to show a young fighter leaving on his final, suicidal mission against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Fua, Syria. There is no date on the video, but Fua has been the scene of intense fighting for the past few months.
He climbs into a Soviet-era armored personnel carrier, probably captured from government forces, which the news story describes as “packed with explosives.” Men are all around him, offering encouragement, taking video with their phones, embracing him.
Then, with his head sticking out of the hatch of the vehicle, the young man — one could easily call him a boy — starts to cry.
He tells his comrades he is only afraid about not succeeding in blowing up his target.
It’s not hard to imagine the real reason. He’s about to die and he knows it. The encouragement and approval all around him tell him that there’s no way out other than this — that there’s no turning back. He’s terrified, but this is what will gain him status and acceptance among his peers.
Only he won’t be among them anymore. He will be gone, blown into a million pieces. Lost to the Earth. But he will belong. He will mean something.
This is his best option.
“Think of Allah!” someone tells the young man in the APC.
It’s a horrible scene. What made it so much more personally horrible is that the boy looks so much like my own 20-year-old son. Tall and gangly, mop of black hair, vague expression alternating with brilliant smile, nose he hasn’t quite grown into yet, ghostly facial hair. Handsome like a man, awkward like a boy.
Not quite in control of his emotions. Doesn’t know that men can’t cry like that.
He’s gone now. At the end of the video the APC rumbles off toward the enemy, disappears in a blinding flash that rocks the camera.
According to the Mirror article, he was Jafar al-Tayyar, from Uzbekistan.
“Allah achhhbar!” voices shout.
Imagine a high school football team telling the running back in the huddle: OK Travis, it’s all on you now! You gotta take this ball, get through those blockers, then run out in the road and dive under one of those trucks! Right under the tires! You da man! Hot dang, we’re gonna win now!
The boy-man in this video should be learning a trade. Or helping people. Or assisting his parents. Playing (or arguing) with siblings. Walking the dog. Trying to get girls to kiss him. Studying his textbooks. Figuring out a computer algorithm.
Or at least getting into the family car, instead of into a rolling incinerator.
Instead he’s crying, because the best option he has is to obliterate himself to kill people he doesn’t know, in the service of people he doesn’t know, while stuffed inside a stolen Syrian government fighting vehicle, for a political cause he’ll never understand.
All because Allah akbar (God is great).
What God could possibly view a scene like this as a tribute?
Only one that thrives off of war, terror, suffering, despair, suicide. Youngsters dying for the sole purpose not of saving others, but of killing and maiming them.
There's a name for that supernatural being, who turns mankind away from peace and light and love. In fact, there are several names.
Alec Rooney serves as communications director for the Christian Action Network. He is a longtime journalist, with experience as a writer and editor at five daily newspapers over 25 years. An award-winning print copy editor and copy desk chief, he also works as a freelance academic book editor. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.