Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

A Tribute to Yasin

A courageous and talented journalist, IWPR contributor Yasin al-Dulaimi was recently killed in a roadside bombing.
By Tiare Rath, Hisham Alwan, Susanne Fischer

Yasin al-Dulaimi

“Please say it’s not true,” was our first reaction on hearing about the death of Yasin al-Dulaimi, an IWPR contributor from Ramadi, in Anbar province, who over the past two years had regularly filed excellent features and news analysis for IWPR’s Iraqi Crisis Report. Yasin, who attended four of our journalism training sessions in Sulaimaniyah, had not only become a highly respected colleague but also a dear friend.

Yasin, 36, died of severe head injures on December 26 after being hit by a roadside bomb in the Baghdad neighbourhood Kadhimiya. He was driving home when the device, targeting a US convoy, went off. He died at the scene. He’s the second IWPR contributor to have fallen victim to the conflict. Last April, trainee journalist Kamal Anbar was killed when US and Iraqi troops raided a neighbourhood in the capital.

Yasin, a Sunni, was married to Sundus abdul-Wahab, a Shia from Baghdad. He loved his work and his family even more. He proudly and regularly showed photos of his baby son Mustafa and his wife. He said their relationship and relations between other members of their respective families had remained firm in the face of the country’s descent into sectarian strife.

Yasin filed stories for IWPR and other media outlets from Ramadi, despite the increasing risk involved in reporting from his war-torn province. Few journalists report from Anbar and even fewer live there, so Yasin’s coverage of the area was greatly valued.

He shuttled between Anbar and Baghdad because he worked as producer for Mustaqbal (the future) radio, a station closely affiliated with the Iraqi Accord Movement of former premier Iyad Allawi.

But he was committed to Anbar. It was home, he said, and he wanted to stay there as long as possible, even as others were fleeing.

In early December though, he and his wife decided to leave as the situation in Ramadi became unbearable. They rented a house in Baghdad temporarily, and tried to figure out a way of possibly leaving Iraq for a neighbouring country.

Tiare Rath, a former IWPR editor who trained Yasin in economic reporting in April 2006, remembers how she always feared for his safety because he worked in such a dangerous part of the country. “He once interviewed a top Anbar official while mortars were being fired at the official’s office,” she said.

Yasin, born in Haditha in Anbar, the sixth of seven brothers of a well-known tribal family, worked as a journalist for ten years. After graduating in design from the College of Fine Arts, he was a producer and editorial director for several newspapers, radio stations and TV channels.

Following the toppling of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, he became a reporter for the Sulaimaniyah-based Radio Nawa and worked as a producer for Baghdad’s Nas Radio.

In April 2005, he took part in IWPR’s first radio training session in Sulaimaniyah, with great enthusiasm. Jessie Graham from the BBC/PRI radio show The World, who worked as an IWPR radio trainer in 2005, well recalls their first encounter: “He was so dedicated and serious from the beginning. I remember him as a standout in the first class we did,” she said.

One day, he told her that US forces had raided his house and arrested his brother in Ramadi. “He asked me how he could continue covering the conflict in Iraq without becoming biased,” said Jessie. She said her eyes welled up with tears. Yasin handed her a tissue. "I could not believe that this man from Ramadi was willing to accept me - an American woman - as a teacher," she said. "He treated me with so much respect and care."

Despite painful personal experiences - on another occasion his house in Ramadi was raided by US troops again, and his computer, satellite phone and digital camera were destroyed and the entire family held at gunpoint for several hours - he adhered to the principles of balanced reporting and maintained a critical approach to both multinational forces and the insurgency.

Yasin was a sharp reporter. He had an excellent nose for news and was a clear and concise writer. Reporting from Ramadi was so unsafe that even getting to an internet café often proved difficult, but he managed to file stories on everything from tribes fighting al-Qaeda in Anbar to the affects of the conflict on ordinary people.

He showed a keen interest in and understanding of political and economic subjects. He not only took the time to grasp issues like inflation and federalism, but also managed to explain them clearly for readers. This was one of his many talents.

He loved reporting and had a particular talent for telling human-interest stories from his ravaged hometown.

His fellow IWPR trainees remember him as a kind, generous and open-minded person. “He helped everybody as much as he could,” said Duraed Salman. “He loved Iraq and was principled,” added Nasir Kadhim who recalls him as a devoted father. “He once told me that he was living for his son and that his only wish was to see him become a man. His friends say he always encouraged them to get married because he loved his wife and his son so much.”

As much as he will be missed at IWPR, it’s his family that’s suffering the greatest loss. His wife Sundus couldn’t stop crying when she talked about the last day of Yasin’s life, her “open-minded, balanced, gentle, optimist, charismatic and passionate” husband.

On the day Yasin died, they had breakfast together. Yasin put his one-year-old son on his lap. He then set off in his brother’s car to Baghdad University to get a copy of his graduation certificate.

At one o’clock, his wife called him and he told her that he was on his way back because the university wanted him to pick up the certificate the following day. Because of the sunset to sunrise curfew, people rush home early. Whenever Yasin was not home by three or four o’clock, Sundus would get nervous and call him.

That day, at four o’clock, Sundus heard a blast. “My heart beat rapidly. I called him several times but there was no reply,” she said, trying to calm herself by reasoning that he might have been held up at a checkpoint or was queuing for bread.

After 20 minutes of calling, someone picked up the phone. But it was not Yasin. “Who are you? Where is the owner of this phone?” she said, beginning to panic. The man told her that her husband had been killed in an explosion in Adnan Square and taken to the local hospital.

She started crying and knocked on her neighbour’s door. They phoned her brothers who took her to the hospital. “I was begging God to see him only for seconds before dying,” she said.

He was buried in Ramadi - hundreds of people attended the funeral. Because of the dire security situation in the capital, few of his friends there could come.

Shamil Majid, 36, who works for an electrical appliances company, was a close friend of Yasin, and had known him since childhood. “He had the heart of a mother, so emotional and kind to all, not only his friends. No one can replace Yasin,” he said.

Karnas Ali, 29, director of Nas radio, was chatting with Yasin on the internet at noon on December 26. Ali said that Yasin had promised him to visit him and his family at Eid al-Adha that would be celebrated a few days later. When Yasin’s brother told him Yasin had died, he passed out. “I can’t believe it. I want to call him or email him when I think of him,” he said. “He was a very nice, modest, courageous and really humane. He was not only a friend but a brother, teacher, and a hard-working journalist.”

Such views and sentiments are shared by his IWPR colleagues. “Yasin was an extraordinary journalist, father and husband. Yasin, like all victims of war, was not a civilian casualty who can simply be counted as another dead Iraqi. He was brave and kind; a great contributor to Iraq and to all those who care about his country.”

Ferhad Mahmood, Tiare Rath, Hisham Alwan and Susanne Fischer contributed to this tribute.

 

This article has been produced with support from the International Republican Institute (IRI).