Hussein Kadhim, along with some 1,700 cadets in military schools, were arrested by militia groups calling itself the Islamic State (ISIS) in the city of Tikrit, Iraq, in 2014.
2014 was the beginning of the successful era of ISIS before they were defeated by international coalition forces.
ISIS controls areas in Syria and Iraq, including Tikrit.
In this city, ISIS, among others, slaughtered cadets at the Speicher military school. From this massacre, Kadhim is known to be the only cadet who escaped death.
“I will never forget this event,” Kadhim told the BBC.
Warning: There may be areas where the reader may feel uncomfortable reading this article.
A dark episode in Kadhim’s life began when he decided to join the Iraqi army in 2014, three years after US troops officially withdrew from the country.
Kadhim decided to join the army for economic reasons.
“There is no other job that can meet the needs of the family,” said Kadhim.
ISIS propaganda video shows ISIS captured men in Tikrit. (BBC)
He lived in Al Diwaniyah south of the capital Baghdad, an area mostly inhabited by Shiites.
Becoming a soldier requires Kadhim to move to Tikrit to undergo military education in a place commonly called Camp Speicher.
Close family and friends warn him not to take military education in Tikrit.
Tikrit is the hometown of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi ruler overthrown by the US-led international coalition. The city is known as the power base of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Saddam and his shaman were Sunnis.
Kadhim, as a Shia adherent, admitted that he was quite worried about going to the Tikrit military base.
Religious identity is still a sensitive matter and he worries that his presence will cause problems.
His worries disappeared when he arrived at Camp Speicher.
The Sunnis there warmly welcomed him. “I was also shocked. This is my first direct interaction with Sunnis,” said Kadhim.
In the first days everything was normal. On the 12th day there was a dramatic change.
ISIS militias came to the city and took control of this city. They head for the Speicher military academy.
Seeing ISIS take full control of the city, the military commanders in Speicher fled.
Being left behind by the commanders and officers has forced thousands of cadets to defend themselves, even though they have only been in military school for a few days.
They didn’t have the ability to fight yet.
The first action taken by ISIS is to ask all teenagers to leave the academy and take off their military uniforms.
“We walked hand in hand like ordinary citizens, civilians,” said Kadhim.
To these cadets, several ISIS militias said, “Welcome. [Jangan takut], we do have guns, but we won’t hurt you. “
ISIS militias took control of Tikrit in 2014. (BBC)
“Take it easy, we only took you to the presidential palace. There you will be sworn never to become a soldier again,” said several ISIS militias.
Kadhim said several ISIS commanders were once part of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Sunni cadets were sent home, but those who were known to embrace Shia were ordered to stay.
Video footage obtained by the BBC shows the cadet who was not sent home with his hands tied. The cadets, including Kadhim, are lined up on the ground.
One militia said, “We will take revenge on Saddam Hussein. We will kill all of you.”
One day, the cadets were lined up somewhere. Kadhim could hear the sound of continuous and endless gunshots.
An ISIS militia approached and shot the cadets one by one. In this row, Kadhim is number four. “They shot one by one,” said Kadhim.
The first shot sounded. Second shot. When the third shot barked, fresh blood splashed onto Kadhim’s body. “I could feel the blood warm,” said Kadhim.
‘This person is still breathing’
ISIS propaganda video showing the arrest of military school cadets in Tikrit. Kadhim was one of those arrested. (BBC)
Then there was the sound of gunfire that must have been directed at Kadhim’s body. But the bullet did not hit his body. “I do not know where the bullet ran,” said Kadhim.
The executor came closer and kicked Kadhim’s body. “This man is still breathing,” said the executor.
“He’s alive, he’s still breathing,” he shouted.
But the executor commander said, “Leave it …”
“Let him suffer, let him bleed to death,” said the ISIS commander.
In fact, Kadhim is actually not bleeding. He was not shot. “There is blood in my body, but it comes from the teenager next to me,” said Kadhim.
He said he was in this place until night fell.
He could feel the cadets nearby who were dying. “I don’t know how to survive in this situation,” he said.
The atmosphere is tense and scary.
That night, feeling safe, Kadhim saved himself.
“I will never forget that incident,” Kadhim said.
Later Kadhim learned that no less than 1,700 military cadets had died at the hands of ISIS militias.
So far only Kadhim is known to have escaped the massacre.
(ita / ita)