Gamal al-Alusi was born to Iraqi exiles in Germany and grew up in Hamburg. One of his longtime German friends described Gamal as an intelligent...

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Gamal al-Alusi was born to Iraqi exiles in Germany and grew up in Hamburg. One of his longtime German friends described Gamal as an intelligent young man who liked to play basketball and take flying lessons. He was also social and humorous, and served as a peacemaker among his friends.

Like other teenagers, he sneaked around with his girlfriends behind his traditional parents and had future plans that changed from week to week. As is also fashionable among many European youths, his political views during early years were characterized by the friend as being “radical” and even “anti-American.”

Nevertheless, Gamal apparently felt having a “normal” job in Germany would not give him the satisfaction of having done something meaningful with his life. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, he left Germany and went to Iraq with his father, Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi native who had been a vocal critic of the Ba’ath regime.

In fact, Gamal’s father had been exiled for 27 years after being sentenced to death for working against Saddam’s regime. Following Iraq’s liberation, Mithal al-Alusi served as the director-general of the Iraqi national commission on de-Ba’athification. After his “controversial” visit to Israel, where he publicly thanked the United States for Iraq’s liberation and urged the Iraqi interim government to normalize relationship with Israel, he was stripped of his position and security protection. Gamal’s family became subject to increasing death threats and terrorist attacks.

Gamal assisted his father’s subsequent endeavor to establish an Iraqi political party that advocates a liberal democracy, economic development through international investment and a strategic partnership with the United States and Israel.

Gamal’s experiences in his ancestral land had changed his political views completely. He witnessed the results of Saddam’s brutality firsthand and became convinced that the United States had been right to liberate Iraq. Whereas America wanted Iraq to be free, Gamal thought that Germany, France and Russia wanted status quo ante bellum to maintain their economic interests in Saddam’s regime.

After the immense success of the recent Iraqi election, Gamal’s family, their friends and associates celebrated with a party, not because they had done especially well in the election, but simply because they finally had a real voice in shaping the future of their country. Despite continuing terrorist attacks against Gamal’s family, it was without doubt a jubilant occasion.

Days before the election, when I asked Mithal al-Alusi about the dangers to his family, Gamal answered instead, “It is true that we are in danger, but if this is the price for democracy and peace, it is a very low price.”

Only days after the election, Gamal and his family paid that price, and it was not “low.”

While traveling by car in Baghdad, their vehicle was ambushed by terrorist gunmen. Mithal al-Alusi survived the attack, but Gamal died along with his older brother Ayman and a bodyguard, all from gunshot wounds. He was only 22.

Radical Islamists often depict suicide bombers as “martyrs” while their sympathizers in the West dignify terrorists in Iraq as “freedom fighters.” Even the mainstream media oblige them as “insurgents.” But real martyrs do not kill, maim and destroy. Martyrs heal what is broken. They give voice to those who are oppressed. They build what is shattered. They attempt to convince through reason while others deal in hatred and violence. And, yes, martyrs die at the hands of those who despise all these things.

Gamal did not go to Iraq to die, of course. But he and his family knew the dangers. Gamal left the prosperous land of his birth and went to the ancestral land he had not known, because he wanted to help build something new. To say that he finally found meaning in his life is an understatement.

Gamal was indeed a martyr for freedom — like countless others who have been murdered by terrorists while trying to build a democratic Iraq.

Today, as they mourn the deaths of their sons, Mithal al-Alusi and what is left of his family continue their work to transform Iraq into a nation of laws. Terrorists persist on attacking, but Mithal and his family remain resolute.

In an interview with Radio Free Iraq, he said, “My children, three people — one of my bodyguards and two of my children — died as heroes, no differently from other people who find their heroic deaths. But we will not, by God, hand Iraq over to murderers and terrorists.”

James J. Na is a senior fellow in foreign policy at Discovery Institute in Seattle ( and runs the “Guns and Butter Blog” ( He can be reached at