Yesterday Amnesty International in London announced its 2008 media awards. Its new media award had to be given posthumously because its recipient, 45-year-old journalist Sahar al Haideri, was gunned down in her home city of Mosul, Iraq for reporting a series of stories about dishonor killings, the influence of religious extremists, and the rising tide of violence against women in her country. For those who may not be aware, Mosul is considered the second most dangerous city in Iraq, after Baghdad.
I never met Sahar, but I wish I had. She was heroic. She had received 15 death threats, and still she forged ahead. On June 7, 2007--just weeks after the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, where she had risen from the ranks of trainee, published her article "Honour Killing Sparks Fears of New Iraqi Conflict" on its Web site--the @#$%&*s finally got her. Ansar al Islam claimed "credit" for her murder. Sahar is survived by four daughters.
One of the dishonor killings about which Sahar had reported was the high-profile murder of 17-year-old virgin Du'a Khalil Aswad on April 7, 2007. I have twice blogged about Du'a:
But this is what Sahar had to say about Du'a's horrid, captured-on-videotape, kicking/stoning/bricking murder at the hands of a rabid, approving, applauding mob:
I would love to say that Sahar's predicament was unusual. That she just had terribly bad luck. But the reality is that too many of us who work in this area are subjected to all forms of abuse, bullying, character assassination, intimidation, and threats. Much of it is systematic and sustained. And it isn't solely from men. Women can be equally hateful and violent. Nor is it solely from the disadvantaged or the less educated. In some sort of cruel, cosmic irony, what happens to too many people who speak out about these atrocities closely mirrors what happens to the people whose lots in life we seek to improve. It is dangerous, high-risk work.
And so I just want to applaud Sahar and showcase her on my blog because she set aside her own concerns and safety in an effort to work for the greater good, a better planet for us all. She was selfless. And brave. And altruistic. And she paid the ultimate price for her convictions.
Rest in peace, Sahar. You didn't deserve your fate in this life.
Causes Ellen Sheeley Supports
For All Women Foundation