The Iraqi female journalist Atwar Bahjat was the victim of a random shooting nor was she the victim of a roadside bomb explosion. She was not killed by a stray bullet not was she kidnapped as punishment for her country’s policies or to obtain a ransom, as has been the case with other hostages.
She was not selected to send a message to another party. She was the intended recipient… She had to die!
The young female correspondent was targeted because of her ambiguous identity. But the killers never gave her- or us who are following with great sadness events in Iraq- the chance to understand why.
According to eyewitness reports, the Al Arabiya correspondent was accompanied by her two colleagues, Adnan Khairallah and Khaled Mohsen in the city of Samarra , as she reported on the bombing of the shrines to Imam Ali al Hadi and al Askari. In front of a crowd of people, armed men started to fire in the air and cried out, “Where is the presenter? We want the presenter!”
Their identities exposed, the men then shot and killed Atwar and her two colleagues. Their bodies were discovered by the roadside the next morning.
The cold blooded and deliberate murder of the female journalist is one of the highlights of the current Iraqi crisis which, once again, journalists are paying a high price for. Her Iraqi colleagues who spoke in remembrance of Atwar expressed their shock and pain at her untimely death and told of the numerous complications they face on a daily basis whilst working in Iraq . The risks to journalists are obvious as they receive threats from all sides.
More than sixty four journalists have died in Iraq since 2003, half of whom were Iraqis. Media organizations have become dependent on local journalists, after foreign and Arab correspondents declined to report from Iraq , unless they were heavily protected. This immunity was unavailable for Iraqis.
Local journalists have become the weakest link. Who will hold American forces accountable if they accidentally or intentionally kill an Iraqi journalist? Who will stop Iraqi official sides from threatening an Iraqi journalist? Who will punish armed fighters for detaining or killing journalists?
Majid Hamid’s account of his kidnapping ordeal and subsequent release was one of the complications Iraqi journalists face every on a daily basis. According to Hamid, the armed men told him: “If we kill you and you are innocent, you will go to heaven. If you are guilty, you would have received your punishment!”
When she visited Samarra to cover the bombings of the two Shiaa shrines, Atwar was undoubtedly aware of the anger across Iraq . She used appeasing language in her report and hoped that the fact she was originally from the city would protect her… but she was wrong.
Pictures of her colleague crying and her only sister dumbfounded let us know that we have neglected out Iraqi colleagues and have not given them the attention the dire situation they are living through requires.