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Your Gentle Smile Won’t Be Forgotten

Al-Mada, Iraq, July 10

Last week, masked gunmen shot and murdered Hisham al-Hashimi, one of Iraq’s most respected researchers on religious fundamentalism. Dear Hisham: When those bullets pierced your body moments before you walked into your home, you left behind you the highest form of bequest: an unequivocal call to action. The truth is that you were not afraid to die. You knew very well that this might happen to you. You were determined not to let this fact deter you or dissuade you from doing your important work. You were fighting to unveil brutality; you weren’t afraid of it. Therefore, in a way, your tragic assassination now proves the immense importance of your work. Your smile – the one that was always on your face – will continue to illuminate us, even in your absence. It will continue to give Iraq’s young men and women hope that they can join a rising generation of patriotic revolutionaries that seek to build a better country for themselves. Your murder was not merely an assassination of a human but an assassination of freedom of thought, culture, and expression. It was also a political assassination meant to silence dissenting voices within our country. Like other heroes who have died in the defense of our nation, your death will never be forgotten. It will forever be enshrined in our collective memory, where your legacy will be celebrated for all that you have done to bring an end to the bloodshed in Iraq and to save the lives of innocent victims. There is no political assassination without a political killer, a political agitator, a political enabler. Political assassination is not committed by individuals but rather by systems and institutions that normalize and legitimize violence. We will never lose sight of the goal you set for us. We will carry out the mission for which you lived. We will free Iraq of the apostates who killed you and rid our political system of its cronies and their masters. The image of your gentle smile will be against our eyes while we do so. –Fares Kamal Nazmi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)