Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Iraq: June '07
The tragic killing of Sahar al-Haideri in Mosul on June 7 was a timely reminder to IWPR and the wider journalistic community of the extreme dangers associated with working as a reporter in Iraq.
As we mourned the loss of a friend and colleague, we also took stock of ensuring the maximum possible safety for the courageous journalists who choose to work with us.
Sahar's death also focused international attention on the risks undertaken by Iraqi reporters.
The security issue was highlighted in many of the reports carried by English-language print and online news organisations and international press groups, which included the BBC, Reuters, the Associated Press, the New York Times and Editor & Publisher.
Sahar's death was also widely reported in the Arabic-language press in Iraq and elsewhere, as well as by press monitoring groups and journalists' associations in the Middle East.
IWPR editors contributed guest opinion pieces to The Guardian and The Washington Post to raise awareness about threats to the lives of journalists in Iraq.
The quality of Sahar's reports meant that articles she completed shortly before her death would have been widely read and republished, but the circumstances unfortunately lent them particular resonance.
On July 8, for instance, the well-known Danish newspaper Politiken translated her story "Iraqi Sex Slaves Recounts Ordeal" and ran it in its Sunday edition, accompanied by a large piece on the position of journalists in Iraq.
Haideri's report "Bleak Future for Iraq's Nineweh Minorities", which IWPR ended up running after her death, was republished by dozens of news agencies both inside and outside Iraq, including news agencies like Middle East Times, the Assyrian National News Agency, Rojname Network, Peyamner and Kurdish Aspect, as well as on Arabic, Assyrian, Kurdish, Iranian and western blogs.
In the United States, the St Paul Pioneer Press ran the same article along with information about Sahar and IWPR, and this was picked up on by the Washington Post and New York Sun websites.
IWPR often receives responses many months after stories written by our trainees are first published on our website. One example of this is the story "Baghdad Gays Fear for Their Lives", on the plight of Gay people in the capital who are being hunted down and murdered by Islamic militants and police.
The story was picked up and cited by a human rights report issued by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in December, and ever since then journalists from across the world have contacted our Iraq office for follow-ups. Just this week, the LA Times' Baghdad Bureau asked to get in touch with the IWPR reporter who did the story to work with him on a further piece.
Earlier, the story had attracted the attention of the UNHCR office in Amman, which was also interested in learning more about the establishment of unofficial Sharia courts - a phenomenon mentioned in one of our reports.
Anita Raman, Associate Reporting Officer of the UNHCR Iraq Operation, wrote to us, "Your work is extremely commendable and vitally needed, and I extend my deepest personal thanks."
An opinion piece entitled "Iraqi Kurdistan's Universities Need Reform" was republished on various websites like Middle East Online, Kurdish Media, Iraqi Updates, Iraq Daily, Arab Journal, United Arab Media, and several blogs.
A copy of the article was also sent to the office of Kurdish prime minister Nechirvan Barzani.
The piece has elicited many personal responses from students wishing to help. An email from Helene, a PhD student in Boston, said "I much enjoyed reading your article. A group of us Kurdish doctors in the diaspora are putting an effort together for Kurdish Universities. We are called KurdMed and I would love to get in touch you regarding our effort," she wrote.
Many Kurdish media outlets republish stories from IWPR, which they say they appreciate for their balanced reporting.
Yahya Barzinji, supervisor of the Awene paper's four-page section on Kirkuk in Kurdish and Arabic, says that he makes use of IWPR's stories, especially the Arabic ones, to enrich their own reporting.
"This is an attempt to make journalism a bridge for dialogue between Kirkuk ethnicities, and we try to be a platform for Arabs and Turkomans and convey their message to Kurdish readers," he said.
In its first issue about Kirkuk, Awene used the story by IWPR trainee Samah Samad about minorities and education, and in another issue, they posted IWPR Executive Director Anthony Borden's piece on Sahar.
Many media outlets and institutions have approached IWPR to find out more about the training we run.
The Wisha Company for Media, the Kurdistan Report paper based in Erbil, the Dahenan student paper and the Aras media institution, which is planning to set up a news agency, have all asked for IWPR training courses. Livin Magazine, a leading Kurdish magazine, asked for a special course on writing opinion pieces.
"IWPR is the best and only NGO that provides proper journalistic training. I love the simple language, neutrality and the ethics IWPR teaches," said Ako Mohammed, editor-in-chief of the Erbil-based Kurdish paper Media.
"I always say everywhere that only IWPR provides journalistic training."
Many websites continue to republish IWPR stories, including Middle East Online, which this week picked up the story on gender role swap. This story was widely republished across the web by Kurdish, Arabic and international sites.
Other sites that regularly republish our work include Kurdmedia, Middle Eastern Times, Ekurd, many Iraq blogs and the webpages of NGOs and human rights groups.
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