Abu Thar turned 30, and might never have tried to reach Iraq again but for the photographs that emerged of U.S. military police abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Seeing the photos, his wife, also a religious student, urged him to leave everything and go to Iraq to fight jihad. She was pregnant with their sixth child.
"She told me, 'If they are doing this to the men, imagine what is happening to the women now,' " Abu Thar recalled. " 'Imagine your sisters and I being raped by the infidel American pigs.'"
He said he spent the night crying, tormented that he did not persevere earlier. In the morning he started making the rounds of friends, borrowing money to travel.