BASRA, Iraq, AP – In just two days, at least 150 people have died in the violence threatening to tear apart Iraq. One of them, Hussein Fadhil, was just 13.
The teenager was in front of his school in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, getting ready to walk into the building when a bomb exploded Sunday, the start of the school week in Iraq.
“He was so happy that morning, as usual,” said Hussein’s brother, Mohammed. “As I turned my back, I heard a huge explosion and found my brother on the ground screaming.”
Hussein suffered serious neck wounds, and was put in a car and sent off to the hospital. He died on the way.
Schools and children have increasingly become targets in a bloody conflict pitting Shiite and Sunni Muslims against each other as Iraq teeters on the verge of civil war. The violence has reached immense proportions in recent weeks, with dozens dying every day and overwhelmed Iraqi authorities seemingly incapable of stopping attacks.
With kidnappings of children and attacks at schools on the rise, some parents are just keeping their kids at home.
Bombs, rockets, mortar and machine-gun fire killed 64 school children from the end of October to the end of February, according to a report by the Education Ministry. At least 169 teachers and 84 other employees died during the same period.
“We are in a society of insecurity,” said Education Minister Abdul Fallah al-Sudani. “Schools are not excluded from the suffering of our society.”
Attacks and threats shut 417 schools in the four-month period — most only for a few weeks, but some longer — disrupting the education of thousands of children. The violence was concentrated in Baghdad and the volatile provinces of Anbar, Diyala and Babil, according to the Education Ministry.
But Hussein still went to school. He also sold fruit on the street after classes “to provide his family with some extra money” after his father, a teacher, died of a heart attack last year, his uncle Hamza al-Mosawi said.
Despite having to work, Hussein still managed to do well in his classes, according to his principal Nasir Dhahir. “He was clever, and very active,” he said.
About 30 friends and relatives gathered Monday to honor Hussein, a Shiite, in Basra before traveling more than 220 miles to bury him in the holy city of Najaf.
His mother, who did not speak to reporters, pounded her chest in grief.