18 Sep 2008
When it comes to sheer bravery and commitment to the cause, there are few journalists that match Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. A leading light in the effort to document post-Saddam Iraq in its troubled and tragic descent into seemingly endless sectarian conflict, Abdul-Ahad has taken to the frontline, reporting free from the shackles that hinder most western journalists embedded with the US army.
In fact, he narrowly escaped death and had to have stitches to a wound after he was hit during a U.S. helicopter strike in 2004. Thirteen Iraqis who had been dancing around the burning hulk of a Bradley fighting vehicle were killed in the attack. He was one of the last journalists to work in Fallujah during the first US siege of the city in April 2004. He also worked in Najaf during the US assault on the city in August of the same year. For all this he is not bowed. Earlier this year, he reported from a turbulent Beirut, where he watched Hezbollah militants take over much of the capital in fighting.
But simply to paint Abdul-Ahad as brave would be to understate his many and vast talents. A writer and reporter for The Guardian, he doubles as a photojournalist of note for Getty Images. To showcase his skills, a collection of his images from war-ravaged Iraq were compiled into the book, Unembedded: Four Independent Journalists on the War in Iraq, along with three other independent photojournalists, Kael Alford, Thorne Anderson and Rita Leistner. His pictures capture in startling clarity the grief and panic of Iraq's people as their world shatters around them.
A talented photojournalist and writer, Abdul-Ahad is equally confident as a video journalist. His powerful video reports from Iraq reveal gaping holes in the rhetoric swirling around the country's slow emergence from war, revealing the desperate plight of Baghdad's child beggers, the indiscriminate power to kill of Iraq's urban death squads, or the tragic wasteland around Sadr City where pieces of rusting scrap metal mark the graves of unknown victims murdered by local militias. His films are eye-opening and chilling.
As an Iraqi who has watched the events of the past five years unfold in close detail, he can also provide sharp insight and analysis. He is able ot provide rare clarity on what five years of conflict has done to Iraq and Iraqis, and for this he is to be hailed as a leading voice on the region. But it is surely his ability to report on the lives of ordinary Iraqis that makes him stand apart - for this he is hard to match.