Farnaz Fassihi Discusses Her Cultural Heritage as a Mechanism For Successful Reporting

Farnaz Fassihi is the deputy bureau chief of Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Waiting for An Ordinary Day, a memoir of her four years covering the Iraq war and witnessing the unraveling of life for Iraqi citizens. In May 2006, Fassihi was awarded the prestigious Henry Pringle Lecture Award for her Iraq coverage by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her coverage of the EgyptAir flight 990 crash won the New England News Executive Award as well as a finalist nomination for the Livingston Award.

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Question: As a Middle-Easterner, do you feel an affinity with Iraqis?

Fassihi:    Oh, sure.  I’m Iranian-American.  I was born in the US to Iranian parents and spent part of my childhood in Iran and kind of witnessed the Iranian revolution and the war with Iraq when I was child.  I think the reason that perhaps Iraqis identified with me or that I was comfortable talking to them and covering them was because I am from that region, you know, my heritage is from a country right next door.  I still have relatives living there.  I have also, like many of the Iraqis, experienced war and uncertainty and immigration, and I have families who’d lived in Iran, who’ve sort of, you know, lived through sanctions.  So, when I would tell them that I’m from Iran and I often go back to Iran and I have relatives there, I think that they felt comfortable with me, you know.  I think, that they felt like I could perhaps really understand what was happening to their lives.  I wasn’t just from this privileged nation very far away. 


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