What it means to kill a teacher: A tribute to Jeremiah Small

By Meer Ako Ali: 

Jeremiah Small

From reports about the incident by his students, I gather that the pupil insulted Jeremiah and then shot him multiple times in the classroom after the teacher’s daily prayer. The pupil then shot himself in the head and died after three hours in the ER.

This event came after a heated discussion between the teacher and the pupil on a previous day during which the pupil threatened to kill the teacher because of conflicting religious views. The pupil, who was closely related to President Jalal Talabani, claimed to be part of a special intervention force, probably the Anti-Terrorist Group, and had regular access to weapons, even though he was a minor. 

Jeremiah Small was born on June 20, 1978 in Washington, USA to a family of dedicated Christians. He moved to Sulaimany on December, 2005 to serve the Kurds by teaching in the Classical School of the Medes. Throughout the six years he spent teaching in CSM, he became not only the ablest and favorite teacher of the school but also one of the community’s friendliest faces.

In the classroom he taught his students a love of Literature and Humanities and encouraged them to always look for truth and seek knowledge; he spent all of his energy and time teaching, mentoring, and giving. Most importantly, he encouraged his students to pursue education as a way of giving back to their community; he was himself a servant leader and wanted to see more servant leadership in our country.

In the community he was a faithful and friendly expatriate. He cared for Kurdistan’s nature, environment, traditions, and way of life. A camera slung on his shoulder, you could spot him walking down of Mawlawi Street in his Jili Kurdi with his colleagues and students during Nawroz. He was no regular teacher; he was a mentor with immense God-given capabilities.

For me personally, Jeremiah Small was both a teacher and a friend. After my parents, he contributed the most to my personality and knowledge. He taught me how to turn my vision into reality and challenged me to be diligent, observing, meek, organized, and detailed.

He was also a great friend outside of the classroom; we went on numerous hikes, trips, and other outings. God knows I would not be who I am today if it was not for him and what he presented to me. I am sure hundreds of his other students feel the same way.

This is why it was such a terrible shock when this morning thousands of people and I heard about the tragedy of his death, which was instantly publicized on Facebook and a score of news webpages. Jeremiah’s family and friends, who had to find out about the tragedy through Facebook, are deeply grieved and are hurt by the fact that their son/brother/friend was killed by the people whom he dedicated his life to serve.

This, folks, is the irony of it all; our community has grown so vile that we kill the people who come to serve us, the people who dedicate their lives to us. Killing a teacher (especially over a slight disagreement) not only means that we despise education and are closed up, it also points out to the fact that we do not take disagreements well: we kill whoever has different opinions in the most brutal ways. But I guess this has been happening quite a lot lately. What a shame.

I refuse to be part of it, however. I refuse to be silent, to clap for the unjust. This is why I join the thousands of others who condemn training children with special force units and giving them weapons to shoot their teachers with whenever they disagree on anything. This is why I condemn the rule of totalitarians that is looming over us, killing whoever disagrees. I join the thousands of affected students and families in demanding justice for the murder of Jeremiah Small and an end to the use of force in silencing differences.

Too bad my teacher had to suffer before we could speak out. It is truly a great loss…

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