The victims of the Baghdad terrorist attack are not a passing number on the evening news. They have names and stories. 250 names. 250 stories. Today, I want to tell you one of these stories. The story of Adil Faraj, the young dancer who “wanted to fly”.
One day, when he was just a boy, Adil came a across a DVD. Little he knew that this banal encounter was going to change his life. On the TV screen of his family home’s tiny living room, he watched Michael Jackson dance. It was a revelation. That’s what he wants to do, that’s what he wants to be. He will become a dancer, nothing else.
But Georges W. Bush and Tony Blair happened. And Iraq was plunged into chaos.
“For over a decade, he taught himself by moving to dance videos in his cramped family home — hiding from a conservative society scornful of the art form and from the chaos that engulfed Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003”, the Associated Press wrote in 2015.
The videos he posted on Youtube caught the eye of Jonathan Hollander, director of the New York based Battery Dance Company. Hollander began teaching him via Skype. But it was far from easy. Adel was sometimes dancing into furniture during the online lessons. "Sometimes his little brother would walk across the screen," Hollander remembers.
As a boy Adil Faraj taught himself to dance like Jackson in his cramped family home in Baghdad http://t.co/SwGozv9PJn pic.twitter.com/EMJvu5TBYu— The Hindu (@the_hindu) April 24, 2015
After six months, Adil was finally ready. He flew to Amman and joined the New York dancers for intense practice sessions, preparing for his solo, and a performance with his two American mentors, Sean Scantlebury and Mira Cook.
"It is inspiring to me to see him take on this huge work load and just do it without cracking," Mira Cook said. "He's so resilient, and it reminds me how strong dancers have to be."
After his solo, the audience erupted in applause. Adil raised his fists triumphantly before bowing. “It’s like a dream”, he said.
Adil Faraj's dream of becoming a dancer defied threats, borders— Khaleej Times (@khaleejtimes) April 24, 2015
Here's his story: http://t.co/wN15KsVLcp pic.twitter.com/u32DiUwUDU
“Despite all the odds and with a little help from the Internet, Adil Faraj has made his childhood dreams come true. And for that, our hats go off to him”, the Lebanese online media platform Step Feed wrote back then.
His parents, like any parents, were a little worried. Dancer is not an easy profession. The future could be uncertain. “Get your degree first, a safety net, just in case”, they must have said. So he did, and graduated from law school.
But his graduation was not the only reason why he felt so happy. Adil was in love. And was going to be engaged in the weeks to come.
So he thought he’ll buy himself new clothes. The sun was shining and his future seemed full of hope. On the eve of Eid el-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, he walked into the packed shopping neighborhood of Karada.
He was probably smiling when the truck exploded. When his life was suddenly and brutally ended.
Adil was the perfect child of the 21st century. He embodied not only the future of the Arab youth but the hopes and dreams of a whole generation the world over. That’s what Daech took away. That’s what it’s aiming to destroy, anywhere it can. That’s what most people have gone without noticing. Because, sadly, Iraqis seem to matter less than others.
After the attack, there were no Iraqi colors on the Eiffel Tower. No emotional speeches from politicians throughout the globe. No flags and “Je suis” on social media.
“Adil just wanted to fly, to experience life to the most," said Rania Kamhawi, the director of the dance festival where he performed in Amman. "I would have liked for him to fly."