Special Dangers for Female Journalists in Iraq

The family of kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll is pleading with her Iraqi captors to release her. Alex Chadwick and Madeleine Brand speak with Anne Garrels about challenges facing female reporters in the war-torn Middle East. Garrels is the author of Naked in Baghdad, chronicling her own experience covering the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY to DAY. In a few minutes, catching up on some major news stories like the woman in France who had a face transplant and the story of secret CIA prisons in Europe. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick. First, the lead: Iraq and the story of Jill Carroll, a kidnapped young, American woman reporter who's threatened with death in the next day. We'll talk with NPR's Anne Garrels in a moment.

Here's what's happening, there's a great deal of violence in Irag today. A suicide attack and a bomb in Baghdad killed and wounded dozens of people. Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities say most of the eight women prisoners being held by the US military were already supposed to be released next week. Freedom for all of them is the demand of the kidnappers who are holding American reporter, Jill Carroll. A US spokesman said the women's release from prison would not come soon.

BRAND: NPR's Anne Garrels reports from Baghdad frequently. She was one of few Western journalists to remain in the Iraqi capital throughout the war, and she's at NPR's headquarters in Washington today. Anne, thanks for joining us again.

ANNE GARRELS reporting:

I'm delighted.

BRAND: So I understand you actually did not know Jill Carroll.

GARRELS: I know her by sight, but, you know, a lot of journalists don't know each other any longer in Baghdad because we can't socialize. You know people where you live, in the compounds where you live.

BRAND: So when you hear of something like this, what goes through your mind?

GARRELS: Horror, absolute horror. You know, I think, "My God, if I were in that position - how is she feeling? What can we do?" And of course, there's not much we can do. And you know, then the broader picture is does this mean that there are going to be more kidnappings, more frequent? Are they targeting women? You know, questions more than anything.

CHADWICK: Anne, just generally speaking, in Baghdad, how many Western women are there among reporters and aid workers and the like? How many of the Westerners there are women? And are they special targets?

GARRELS: Well, first of all, I would say there are almost no aid workers in Iraq at this point, very few, and they live within the green zone. The reporters are the only people who live outside in the so-called red zone, out in the community, and there are many women. I'd say probably half the reporters in Baghdad are women. Are they special targets? I don't think so, at least looking at the pattern up until now. There had, in fact, been a lull in general on taking foreigners hostage, and I think many of us were beginning to feel, well, maybe it's getting a little safer. You just didn't know. You never know. In the situation in Baghdad at this point, you know, the security situation is, you know, they don't tell you, we're going to kidnap you. You don't know who's a target. Was Jill targeted? Or was she a target of opportunity because somebody from Adnan al-Dulaimi office called and said, Hey, she's leaving. She doesn't have any security with her. She'll be an easy hit? I don't know.

CHADWICK: Adnan al-Dulaimi is...

GARRELS: He is a Sunni politician with whom she had organized an interview. She went to his office, waited for some time. He did not turn up, and then she left.

BRAND: Anne, I wonder if you could take us into a day in the life of a reporter when you're there. What kinds of precautions do you take? What's it like just trying to do your job?

GARRELS: I am not a reporter in the way I'd like to be, first of all. None of us are. We can not move around freely. Jill was in a lone car. Some reporters work with a chase car. The security, security advisors, cost. It costs a huge amount of money to operate in Baghdad for all news organizations. I mean, I still go out and do interviews, but I will get in the car in the compound where I live, a secure compound. I will then go to the interview. I will not stop anywhere along the way. I used to do shopping. I used to take my clothes to the laundry. I mean, for two years I have not done that because you're afraid if you stop and get a coke, say, that somebody will see that it's a car with foreigners and will call ahead, and you'll be hit.

CHADWICK: Anne, it's Alex again. Didn't you say to me, both on the air and in personal conversations, a year-and-a-half, two years ago, "I am not going to go back to Baghdad"? You did say that.

GARRELS: I did say that, Alex, but obviously I do continue. I've been spending at least six months a year in Baghdad for three-and-a-half years. I know something about the place. I think it's important, and I have been able to work there. I have been able to just do enough, and we all rely on our Iraqi staff.

BRAND: And we remember that Jill Carroll's translator was, in fact, killed during her kidnapping.

GARRELS: That's right.

CHADWICK: NPR's Anne Garrels, speaking with us today from Washington. Anne, thank you.

GARRELS: Thank you.

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