For the first time, the Iraqi who risked his life and his family, and everything he owned to help an American POW - Pvt. Jessica Lynch - tells his remarkable story.
When Mohammed al-Rehaif brought his wife to her work as a nurse at Saddam Hospital in Nasiriya, in southern Iraq, his curiosity led him to a glimpse of the injured American POW - Pvt. Jessica Lynch. When he saw the helpless prisoner slapped by a hulking officer from the notorious Saddam Fedayeen, he had no idea who she was, yet he took the abuse personally. As he said, "My heart was cut."
Mohammed, born into an affluent family, had led a comfortable life as a lawyer and prospered as a national Kung Fu champion and instructor. All he had to do was to look the other way - to ignore a wounded American soldier whose prospects looked dim in any case. But he could not.
Dodging the Fedayeen, the Iraqi Army, Saddam's myriad intelligence agencies, and shelling and sniper fire from both sides, he walked six perilous miles to the US Marines' encampment. He earned their trust and made two more round trips to the heavily guarded hospital, contacting Pvt. Lynch and delivering the logistical details the US military needed to mount its rescue mission. Three days later, the commandos went in.
Repercussions were quick, and severe. Mohammed's home was ransacked by the at-large Fedayeen, and his aging father was burned out of his house. On his final trip to the Marines, Mohammed lost the sight in his left eye when struck by shrapnel. Although he and his wife and daughter were granted asylum in the US in April, his extended family remains in limbo, under Marine protection in a tent outside Nasiriya.
Aside from its powerful perspective on the most publicised tale of this war, Mohammed's story is also the tale of what it was like to come of age in a society where violence and betrayal were everyday events, where one of five adult males worked for the state's security apparatus.