Farnaz Fassihi

Inside Media: Iraq Unraveled

September 20, 2008

Guest: Farnaz Fassihi

Farnaz Fassihi expected danger when she agreed to cover the war in Iraq, but she did not expect to be the target of local insurgents.

"In other wars …you were in danger on the front line," said Fassihi, Wall Street Journal deputy bureau chief for the Middle East and Africa. "You could get bombed if you were in the wrong place, but they weren't after you. In Iraq, they [are] after you."

Fassihi, who spent four years covering the war, survived a car bombing of her crew's house and a truck bombing of her hotel. For help in navigating their dangerous work, Western journalists often employ Iraqi citizens. But threats continue to lurk.

"I went to interview a Sunni cleric in Baghdad …and I suddenly realize he's saying [to my translator] 'You know, I could make a lot of money having this American reporter kidnapped,'" Fassihi said. "So we quickly wrapped it up because my translator was so nervous."

Because of the increasing dangers she and her colleagues faced, they trained Iraqi employees in the basics of journalism and sometimes dispatched them to report. In some cases, Fassihi said, an Iraqi staff member would try to convince skittish Iraqi sources to come to her hotel so she could conduct an interview.

Though she often feared for her life, Fassihi said she never considered leaving the war zone.

"The thing about covering a war is that once you start there it's really hard to pull yourself out," she said. "You become really emotionally engaged with the story."

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