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Ahmed Fadaam, Iraqi journalist, visits Elon

Information, understanding key in Iraq war according to journalist.

By Christina Edwards

October 22, 2008

Ahmed Fadaam addresses the war in Iraq and the role media plays.

Ahmed Fadaam addresses the war in Iraq and the role media plays.

Dr. Ahmed Fadaam is an accidental journalist.

Until 2003, he was a professor of fine arts at the University of Baghdad. He was a figurative artist, working with clay, marble and stone. He lived in Baghdad with his two children and his wife.

Until the school he was teaching at was destroyed in a 2003 bombing.

“You can’t even feel safe inside your house,” Fadaam said of the turmoil in Iraq.

After the bombings, Fadaam was out of a job. He was then hired as a translator for NPR’s The Connection, going on in May 2003 to work for The Agence France Presse as an interpreter, videographer, reporter, courtroom artist and photographer. Presently, he is working as the Baghdad reporter for The Story with Dick Gordon on WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, and for the Baghdad Bureau of the New York Times.

“Art was my life at that time. I couldn’t imagine myself as a man who would chase stories,” Fadaam said. “I was trying to lock myself up in my own paradise.”

Since falling into journalism, Fadaam’s work has won five awards, including the Edward R. Murrow Award for Continuing Coverage. While at Elon University as a scholar-in-residence, Fadaam spoke to journalism students October 22 about the role of media in the war and future relations between the United States and Iraq.

“It’s curiosity,” Fadaam said. Some people believe what they hear, others have to check it out for themselves. I don’t know if I’m a good [journalist], but I did something.”

Fadaam speaks to Janna Anderson's class at Elon University October 22.

Fadaam speaks to Janna Anderson's class at Elon University October 22.

His work and achievement has come with its consequences. Fadaam has received death threats for his affiliation with western media, causing him to move his wife and children to Syria for safety.

“We’re looked at as spies, as blood traitors,” Fadaam said. “But as long as you know you’re telling the truth. When you want to fight back, it’s not necessary to use weapons. We do it with words, with the truth.”

According to Fadaam, in the early days of the war in Iraq, it was only the Americans and the American media that was looked at with distrust by the Iraqi people.

“It would have been better to introduce yourself as Canadian,” Fadaam said, noting that he was better received by Iraqi citizens when working for the French news organization.

Now, he says, all western media is seen as equal to American. Fadaam also notes that he believes eventually, Iraq will be completely anti-American.

Western media, according to Fadaam, is similarly distrustful of Iraqis. He says Iraqi sources are looked at as exaggerating and trying to spread propaganda.
Fadaam says that in order for Iraqi relations with Americans to become stable, communication needs to be established between the two groups.

“You have children who open their eyes to their country under fire,” Fadaam said. “They need to know that there is a difference between the American people and the American administration.”

Fadaam believes information and understanding of the other culture is key in the conflict.

“You should be informed in what’s going on in details,” Fadaam said. “Know more about Iraqis. If you feel the pain, you can talk about the wound.”

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