Responding to an appeal from Shi’ite clerics, Salah al-Wa’ili signed up earlier this month with a militia near Baghdad fighting the Islamist insurgents who have swept through northern Iraq and threatened the capital.
A week later the 27-year-old part-time fighter was dead.
Killed in battle against Sunni militants near the western city of Ramadi on Friday, he joined the growing list of casualties from the latest wave of conflict to strike Iraq, which has been plaged by war, sanctions and sectarian strife for longer than Wa’ili’s brief lifetime.
For relatives who buried him on Friday in the sprawling and ever more crowded cemetery known as the ‘Valley of Peace’, outside the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, grief was mixed with a bleak familiarity.
Salah was laid to rest in a family plot next to the graves of three generations of relatives killed in conflict and internal unrest stretching back to the year he was born, when Iraq was fighting Iran.