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By AnnaMaria Donnoli via Wikimedia Commons

A Soldier in a Child

Matet, James and Nicole started chuckling once more. I turned and looked at them, still curious and attempting to decipher what I had missed. Matet then let the cat out of the bag with Nicole nodding her head at the side, “we never knew he was a MNLF. It takes an interview by you for him to reveal that he was a MNLF.” I struggled to find an appropriate response. For a lack of a better reply, I let out a small smile, before turning to look at Jamal to avoid the gaze of Matet. He was grinning. He had clearly known why they had been giggling.

I took this opportunity of laughter to clarify my doubts. My urge to have my questions answered overwhelmed me. I blurted “couldn’t you have chosen not to be trained to fight?”

“No, it’s jihad. Jihad means you do it whether you like it or not. You have to fight because it is [a] Muslim belief that you have to fight when your leader calls for it.”

That explains it. It explains the apparent lack of choice as well as why he had no qualms or doubts during those eight months of training. He was not merely driven by the events of loss, but also by a strong personal belief to obey a jihad.

As Jamal recalled that his first battle as a trained fighter, several thoughts then went through my mind.

It is not uncommon for victims of conflict to undergo military training to empower themselves not only in defence, but also with the ability to exact vengeance on those they view culpable for their emotional and physical losses. I wanted to know if Jamal felt the same way.

“I was informed that a dad told his son to mimic shooting soldiers by raising his hand and clutching it in the shape of a gun before aiming at them and simulating the shots of a gun.” Jamal leaned forward as I continued, “this dad told his son to do the same thing to all government soldiers he saw.[1] Did you feel the same way?”

Jamal paused and rubbed his left hand against his mouth. It was something that he often did when he gave an idea much thought.

Looking at me in the eye, Jamal replied, “Yes, I wanted to kill. Sometimes ambush,” before folding his arms across his chest.

I sensed that I knew where he was getting at, but was yet unsure at the same time.

“If you see a soldier wounded and alone, what would you do?”

There was a significant pause with Jamal folding his arms once more. He straightened his back and raised his chin. Jamal was in deep thought. “Kill him.”

“What did you feel? Anger?”

Jamal struggled for an answer. He had much difficulty trying to provide a response to his emotional state in correspondence to his actions on the battlefield. Seemingly unable to qualify his anger and refusing to be drawn into the question of his previous experiences and emotions had contributed to his decision in the field, he continuously justified them in terms of the need to fight against the military.

“How would you kill a captured soldier? Prolonged or quick kill?” I was keenly aware that my questions were becoming more contentious and loaded as the interview progressed.

About Zhenjie Im

Zhenjie Im is a former Junior Fellow.