Fathers of US teacher, killer meet at Iraq funeral

AP News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2012 2:08 PM
Fathers of US teacher, killer meet at Iraq funeral

The fathers of a slain American teacher and his killer came together in peace Tuesday at a funeral in northern Iraq.

Hundreds of mourners paid their respects to Jeremiah Small, 33, a gym teacher at a Christian school in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad. He was shot last week by one of his students during a classroom dispute, a rare violent death of an American in Iraq's most peaceful region.

Authorities in Sulaimaniyah, a city in Iraq's relatively safe Kurdish region, said 18-year-old Biyar Sarwar shot Small before turning the gun on himself at a private English-speaking school during a March 1 morning sports lecture. Sarwar died later at a nearby hospital.

"The killing of our son should be turned into an event to call for peace and coexistence," said Dan Small, the teacher's father, who traveled from Cosmopolis, Washington state, with the rest of his family to bury Jeremiah in Sulaimaniyah's Christian cemetery. "We do not have any hatred for the family of the student who killed our son."

The shooter's father, Rashid Sarwar, attended the funeral. He apologized to the Smalls for the killing.

"The shooting was a painful thing to us also," Sarwar said.

Sulaimaniyah's governor also attended the ceremony.

Small had taught at the Medes School, a private Christian academy of elementary through secondary grade level classes, since 2005.

Students described Small as smart and highly respected. It's not clear what the fatal argument was about.

Small was a devout Christian who prayed regularly in class, in front of a student body that was 95 percent Muslim. Officials have emphatically denied that the killing was based on religion.