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Monday, January 09, 2006

American Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq

The name of the reporter for the Christian Science Monitor who has been kidnapped in Iraq has been released. She's Jill Carroll:
Carroll, a 28-year-old freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped Saturday in Baghdad, when gunmen ambushed her car and killed her translator. She had been on her way to meet a Sunni Arab official in one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.

In the February/March issue of AJR, Carroll wrote that she moved to Jordan in late 2002, six months before the war started, "to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began."

"There was bound to be plenty of parachute journalism once the war started, and I didn't want to be a part of that," she wrote.


Unlike most Western reporters, Carroll is able to speak Arabic, "so she can operate pretty well in Iraq," Ingwerson said.

Despite her language skills, Carroll used an Iraqi translator. The translator was killed during the kidnapping, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.
There's a clip up over at CBS news that includes an old interview with the translator who was killed, Alan Ghazi, and it's quite heartbreaking. He opened up a music store because of his love of western music and was well aware of the dangers involved in working as a translator for an American journalist.

Carroll was friends with humanitarian aid worker Marla Ruzicka who was killed in Bagdhad last year:
Marla was more than a source for a story, she was one of those quiet cheerleaders that kept me - and the Iraqis she touched - going almost from the moment that I arrived here three years ago.

I first met her in Jordan, just before the war. A reporter friend told me that I should get to know this young activist who made a name for herself working for Global Exchange, the US organization that sent field workers to Afghanistan to count civilian casualties.

After the Iraq war, she moved her push for an accurate count of civilian casualties to Baghdad. At a time when the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations were leaving Iraq, Marla started the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Through that, she helped Iraqi families navigate the process of claiming compensation from the US military for injuries and deaths.


I was always amazed at how composed Marla remained amid the violence and confusion of Iraq. One of my favorite memories of her was when I was sitting in the middle of the Palestine Hotel lobby in Baghdad, surrounded by a confusing swirl of soldiers, officials, and reporters. Fear swept over me. What was I doing here? I had come as a freelancer, with no experience covering a war. Just as I was quietly freaking out, Marla appeared in the dusty, harried scene. She was the picture of calm in a perfect French braid and long blue dress. She was like a breeze blowing through, so tranquil, so clean.

Later in the fall of 2003 when I moved here and was despairing of my sputtering freelance work she would always say, "Jill, good for you. You're working so hard. I'm so proud of you." She was the eternal supportive cheerleader. One night she slipped a note in my hotel mailbox. It was a small essay of encouragement and praise from out of the blue, scribbled in black ink on a scrap of notebook paper.


The only thing we can say now is at least she died doing what she wanted, doing what she really, really believed in. If she were still here, she'd be most worried now about her driver's family and who will take care of all the other Iraqi families she was working with.

She would point out, this happens to Iraqis every day and no one notices or even cares. There are no newspaper articles or investigations into what happens to them. For most of them, there was only Marla.
Many people have risked much to assure that the true story of what is happening in Iraq is told, and not just the recycled GI Joe cartoon jingles served up by the Pentagon. Let's hope that someone so young and idealistic does not wind up another casualty in this unbelievable mess.