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…

Copyright © 2012 Kurdistantribune.com

46 Responses to What it means to kill a teacher: A tribute to Jeremiah Small
  1. Kevin
    March 1, 2012 | 18:26

    Thank you for your personal story about how my cousin impacted your life and for your reasoned commentary about a closed up totalitarian society. I’m deeply saddened for our common loss and will miss Jeremiah tremendously.

    Sincerely –

    Kevin J
    Seattle, WA USA

  2. George Grant
    March 1, 2012 | 18:26

    Thank you, Meer.

  3. Shko Agha
    March 1, 2012 | 19:17

    it really is such a shame

    we(kurds) always wanted to be recognized to the world
    well now we’re recognized as murderers…..

    • De
      March 2, 2012 | 02:18

      Shko-No you won’t.We know this was the act of one individual-not a whole people group.I have learned to love the Kurdish people-in part becaus of Jeremiah.Please know our hearts and prayers go out to you and all his friends and students there.

      • Shko Agha
        March 2, 2012 | 09:47

        thank you for understanding

  4. Baqi Barzani
    March 1, 2012 | 19:55

    It is very unfortunate. It was a shocking news! In Kurdish society and culture, we are taught to pay special respects to teachers, especially foreign teachers who have left behind their own families to help educate our children.

    Our prayers and deepest condolences go to the family of victim.

    We sincerely hope such tragic incidents will never be reiterated again. I am positive that student was suffering from some sort of mental complications.

  5. Lana
    March 1, 2012 | 20:51

    I am so sorry. I am ashamed as a kurd. iam sorry. I pray for his family/friends/students.

  6. haval
    March 1, 2012 | 21:21

    THis accident telling us how the schools operate in kurdistan.How could be possible for the 18 years old boy to carry a gun go school .The news sadden the whole kurdish community inside and outside Kurdistan.A new reality in the south of kurdistan is that they are attending the waive of globalisation but they dont have the tool to deal with it .The Media school must accept some responsibility ,should tell the whole observers what is happened to the young dedicated teacher come all the way from washington to serve the kurdish nation ,and that is what they are getting in return.

  7. Andrea
    March 1, 2012 | 21:40

    Thank you, Meer. Your tribute to Jeremiah Small brought tears to my eyes and to the eyes of many. My family has known his family for years and this tragedy is almost unbearable. Such an incredible loss. Thank you for writing this. We love you, Jer!!!

  8. Kurdish
    March 1, 2012 | 22:30

    This is a very tragic loss of both Bayar and Jeremiah. I hope both families will find peace.

    Your article provides a great tribute to your teacher but do not generalise about Kurdish students. This is a very RARE incident.

    Your last paragraph in particular is completly out of touch with reality in Kurdistan. Do you live there?? Seems very strange.

    To re-iterate, this is a very rare and tragic accident which I am sure no one, least of all the Kurdish community will condone.

    Peace and prayers

    • Kurdi
      March 3, 2012 | 00:14

      I totally agree with you, this is a VERY rare incident and we as kurds are made to RESPECT foreigners, sometimes we RESPECT them sooo much that we place them infront of our own people. But i think in your article your kind of marginalising ‘Kurds’. As i live abroad am totally unsure of the full story which lead it to this catastrophe, which we are all upset about. However like i said above this is a very rare incident in kurdistan and hope its the end. Although this happens in every country including America. However am sure you all know this is not the reality in Kurdistan. Peace

  9. Inkling
    March 1, 2012 | 22:44

    When I first read the news this morning on another site, I wondered if it involved the Classical School of the Medes. My heart was broken to hear that it indeed was involved, and that one of their incredible teachers had been lost. They have had a special place in my heart and in the hearts of my former students at a classical school since 2002 when we first “adopted” them. Today, my prayer is for the Small family, for the CSM students and families, and for all the officials and organizations involved that they may find comfort and that only good will be allowed to come out of this great loss.

    When I first introduced my students to CSM, we listened to a tape by Dr. George Grant called “Run to the Roar” about how a man named Boniface ran towards a great need despite the danger. It eventually took his life. Jeremiah Small was a teacher who also courageously ran toward the roar, choosing to serve children and families in a difficult area despite the possibility of danger. And my prayer is that his efforts will continue to bear good fruit even though his voice has been silenced.

  10. Raz
    March 1, 2012 | 23:31

    This is so heartbreaking. To think that a youth can easily get his hands on a loaded weapon like that is terrifying. I hope this leads to a much more strict manner of policing these issues.
    This is truly tragic. My thoughts are with the families and relatives.

  11. […] Here is a piece written by one of Jeremiah’s students. It breaks my heart and makes it sing at the same time. http://kurdistantribune.com/2012/means-kill-teacher/ […]

  12. MaryAnn
    March 2, 2012 | 01:20

    Jeremiah was my childhood neighbor and I’m so saddened by this :( It sounds as if he did so much good in the world, and this is just senseless. His family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. Chuck Bartholomew
    March 2, 2012 | 02:20

    Jeremiah counted the cost, and yet he went to serve his Savior. To God be the glory, until we meet again my friend.

  14. De
    March 2, 2012 | 02:26

    Thank you so much for this article.It is such a blessing to read what our friend meant to all of you there.I know he loved you and was glad to serve you there.He will be missed.But he leaves behind many who were touched by him.

  15. Jo
    March 2, 2012 | 03:22

    Thanks so much for sharing this, it helps to see how Jeremiah touched so many lives.

  16. Gaily
    March 2, 2012 | 07:58

    Oh, Meek, thank you for your words. You are right, a very great loss.

    I got to work with Jeremiah (and maybe met you!) at CSM for a short while in 2006 and saw his beautiful, joyful heart in action. He indeed loved well and was well loved.

    The man climbed trees, line-danced like a pro, and kept a roof garden against all odds. He adopted someone’s red canary and I can still hear its call in my head sometimes. I loved him for those things and all the others, just as you must have.

    I want to encourage you to trust those who say this does not reflect on the Kurdish people in any way. I found nothing but great kindness from everyone I dealt with there, particularly from the students, teachers, and staff at the school.

    My love of the Kurdish people will not be diminished by any act of one of your school-mates; this was a crime committed by a confused young man and no good can come from trying to make it anything more than that.

    Again, thank you for your brave and honest words; know that you and all are in my heart and my prayers.

    • Meer
      March 2, 2012 | 12:13

      Thanks for sharing. It looks like you knew Jeremiah well. I miss seeing him climbing trees and line-dancing.

  17. Roksan
    March 2, 2012 | 08:01

    I am so sorry, I pray for his familly :(

  18. Meer
    March 2, 2012 | 11:28

    Thank you for your nice comments. Reading your posts are comforting. It is fascinating to see the number of lives Jeremiah impacted through his own.

    Please understand that in the last paragraphs I’m pointing to something more general, something bigger than teacher-student relationships and even politics. Silencing different opinions with violence has been trending for a while now. But it is exactly the kind of thing I don’t want to see ingrained in our society; it is exactly the kind of thing I wouldn’t want to be part of.

    God Bless

  19. ASOS
    March 2, 2012 | 12:05

    our hearts and praters go out to his family and friends and all American people … set in peace …

  20. Tara
    March 2, 2012 | 13:00

    Meer,

    You have a future in journalism. Your article strives for truth and justice. You are an excellent writer. Thank you for using your gifts in this way today. Jeremiah was a wise man of God and it is obvious he touched your life.

  21. Rizgar Khoshnaw
    March 2, 2012 | 15:21

    This truly a sad day for all us humans no matter what culture or color we are. I hope that all of us learn a valuable lesson by this unfortunate incident not to act on impulse and to think deep before taking any action that could have a devastating result. I hope that the KRG now act to teach all Kurdish youth that violence is never the answer and to prevent them from carrying/possessing hand guns at any time.

  22. Brandon Verner
    March 2, 2012 | 19:45

    Meer, thank you for your words of honor and respect for our brother Jeremiah. I am deeply saddened and will miss him.

  23. Mikhael Madello
    March 2, 2012 | 20:42

    Thank you for your very moving tribute. Although I did not know Jeremiah, he was a friend and mentor to my brother and sister who were both inspired by him. What a selfless person. I hope his family and friends find comfort that he is with the Lord.

  24. h0sie
    March 2, 2012 | 21:28

    I’m ashamed
    to hear that a Kurd killed him
    I want to bless his family
    sorry for that loss

  25. Kevin baxter
    March 2, 2012 | 22:27

    Well. This is tragic… So tragic that words aint enough to explain how tragic it is. I have to be honest i dont get surprised anymore when i hear about school shootings.. Very familiar back home that some crazy kid will gun down his fellow students or teachers.. But boy did that one catch me off guard or what.???? What makes me wonder though . Where is kurdistan going to? A killing for religion. Not honor no raped sister no murdered father being avenged or any of this kindda stuff… A relegious disagreement? This is definatley not how i know kurds. A kurd might kill for his nation but seriously since when do kurds murder for religion?? May be i still think too simple. May god rest your soul brother Jermiaha its a loss for ll of us.

  26. Melanie
    March 2, 2012 | 22:58

    This was a great article and Jeremiah was a truly special person. It is sad that his life had to end this way.

  27. BERIVAN RAMIA
    March 2, 2012 | 23:14

    When a child is not used to be disciplined at home he would never accept disciplinary by his teacher.And as he had problems with his teacher it should have been solved and taken in consideration by the head or parents .but when we are ignorant about our acts we blame every body around us except our self….may his soul rest in peace….

  28. Carlito
    March 3, 2012 | 02:30

    Its a shocking tragic well all touched by it and i would like to send my condolences to his family for their loss . it was an awful accident that cost us the life of dear friend the main thing he wont be forgotten for his bravery and his decency and trying to enlighten and educate our children in Kurdistan God bless his soul he is an angel and looking down on us once again rest in peace our beloved friend

  29. Mark Wilson
    March 3, 2012 | 03:55

    While this sad and its very tragic. I do not like that fact that there are missionaries in Kurdistan who brainwash and aim to convert little children from Islam into Christianity. The main purpose of the Medes school is to christianise the Kurdish people, especially the elite. If the young elite grow up as Christians then Kurdistan would be run by a small educated elite of Christian Kurds.

  30. Ahmed
    March 3, 2012 | 07:02

    Dear Meer thanks for your effort in writing this article , I am not with violence , I hate the weapon I hate pistol , the point in this tragedy is the teacher supposed Not to talk about the Christian religious in the class as some people said , we are Muslim we are not allowed to talk about our religion in the school that we teach , I think the aftermath of religious is just killing each other ….

  31. des
    March 3, 2012 | 10:14

    it is such a shame that a dedicated, hard working and likeable young man had to be killed. Where would we be without debate,disagreement and voice of opinion. He loved and served the community.

  32. Jo Owen
    March 3, 2012 | 21:47

    As i read this…with tears in my eyes, i remember a sweet little boy growing up in Wylie Tx. with a beautiful Christian family. I am so saddened to read how Jeremiahs life here on earth ended.
    Dan and Becky my heart is heavy for you and the family. My prayers are with you.

  33. gail,timothy,joyel,holly ottaway
    March 3, 2012 | 22:20

    Dear Becky,Dan, & family,
    We are praying for all of you. Such a loss is indescribable but so is the fact that we know that Jeremiah lives on and is a conquerer. That doesn’t’ make the empty spot that only he can fill any easier to reconcile. God is good and faithful to restore your peace and joy.
    In His love and care,
    The ottaways

  34. Jeremiah Small | Charlie + Lu
    March 4, 2012 | 01:07

    […] article written by the highschool seniors at CSM is very important to read, as is this tribute by another student. I worry, and I am sure the school’s community and organization do even […]

  35. Matt Kelly
    March 6, 2012 | 01:41

    Thank you Meer for this beautiful article. I just want to use this page to offer a memorial to Jeremiah… though I am not sure if I met him when I was in Kurdistan, I am moved by his life, his courage, his congruence in living what he believed to the fullest. Thank you Jeremiah, you are truly an overcomer of this world through the power of Love, and your life testifies to Love, Truth, and Righteousness, and points to the Truth.

  36. Bamo
    March 6, 2012 | 08:07

    I have to openly and honestly state that not only his family, friends and students but Kurds in general lost a great man on the 1st of March 2012. Ironic to his surname ‘Small’, Mr Jeremiah was a very big man both in stature and respect that he had gained impartial to any material or external power. A man that volunteered to help and spend his years in Iraqi Kurdistan to inspire and motivate the next generations kids to have the best foundational start to their academic and professional lives. Every single student or rather friend that was blessed enough to be taught by him would always wholeheartedly describe him as one who has ‘epitomized what having faith was’ and being ‘so pious that we want to believe and be like him’. One former student openly stated ‘Mr Jer has done more for me than my own parents’. He made students believe in themselves through seeking the truth, he never imposed his Christian beliefs on anybody but the way he served his religion and how his religion served him inspired many students turn to God which I believe is the best thing anyone can do for anybody. I think at a time when our leaders in Parliament and in high rank are openly engaged in corruption, it is difficult for our youth to find role models and icons that could trail-blaze and inspire. Mr Jeremiah did more for Kurdish youth from his voluntary position than any Kurdish leader could have done or would have for that matter. Let us not take the essence of the occasion by focussing on the negatives of how it was a shooting and all the counterfactuals that come with it. I think good men do not die, they live through their people. Every head must bow and every tongue must defect, Mr Jeremiah Small I salute you and any pioneer that helped Kurds to come through, you paved the way for us and for that we owe alot to you. Rest in Paradise. Eternally, Bamo

    • A.A
      April 23, 2012 | 11:12

      As one of his students, I can not agree with you more. He was the true role model and his actions spoke louder than words.

  37. Erin
    March 6, 2012 | 08:12

    I owe my salvation in Christ to God, Jeremiah, and his sister Sarah. Through the Lord’s grace, and their testimony, I was saved. I can only pray that from this tragedy of Jeremiah’s death others will be touched by God’s unending grace.

    • Carolyn Lingerfelt
      March 6, 2012 | 12:23

      If jeremiah has touched one life his work is well done. by reading all these posts it seems he has touched many and death will not stop his influence upon the wonderful Kurdish people. God bless all of you and may you become stronger and bolder in the face of tragedy.

  38. […] meant a shorter life.  He was 33.I was moved by reading the perspective of a Kurdish student in this article from the Kurdistan Tribune, where he wrote:  In the classroom he taught his students a love of […]

  39. […] wrote a tribute to his former teacher for The Kurdistan Tribune, “What It Means to Kill A Teacher.” In it, Ali writes: Throughout the six years he spent teaching in CSM, he became not only the […]

  40. […] by a student who is grieved that a manwho came to serve, was killed by one he came to serve.Read “What It Means to Kill A Teacher.”Jeremiah was only 33 years old.Who does that remind you […]

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