NNA – On the Tigris River waterfront where jihadists executed hundreds of captured Iraqi army recruits last year, bloodstains are gradually being covered by streaks of candle wax dripping down the quay.
A symbolic tombstone has been laid where Islamic State group fighters carried out their assembly-line slaughter, shooting the young mostly Shiite men in the head before tipping them into the river one by one.
Two weeks after troops and militia retook Tikrit, the main site of the “Speicher massacre” — named after the military base near which the victims were seized — is fast becoming a pilgrimage destination.
Every day, dozens of Iraqi fighters visit the narrow quay of the river police building, located inside the sprawling palace complex that now executed dictator Saddam Hussein built in his hometown.
Relatives, some of whom will never have a body to bury, have streamed to Tikrit from the south and other parts of the country to see the last place where their loved ones were alive.
Delegations of clerics, students and artists have also travelled to the site, which is still haunted by one of IS’s worst atrocities but also symbolises and galvanises the commitment of those fighting against the jihadists.
“This is where the martyrs’ blood was spilt, this should become a museum to all Iraqis, a symbol of pride,” Sheikh Dargham al-Juburi said as he visited the site.
The black-clad and white-turbaned cleric, a representative of Iraq’s top Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, wept and prayed over the small marble memorial.
He went on to draw parallels between the improvised Tikrit shrine and Karbala, the Shiite holy city south of Baghdad that was the scene of a 7th century battle considered a defining moment in the schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.–AFP