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.
Fassihi: I had several near death experiences or very, you know, close calls, if you may, in Iraq. You know, there was an incident where I was nearly kidnapped. We were coming back from an interview and we had the security procedure where I was in the armored car, with the driver and the translator, and the guards were in a surveillance car, following our car and sort of, you know, being mindful, and we have walkie talkies to communicate. And, you know, we were on this bridge coming back from the interview and this call comes from the walkie talkie from the driver behind us saying, you know, there’s a car that’s been following us through several neighborhoods and I think they may want to kidnap her. And they tried to put the brakes on to stop the car and he went run around them and we were in this crazy chase and run thing and I, you know, I can’t tell you how many thoughts ran across my mind at that time, you know. Just thinking, “Okay this is it,” you know. They’re going to take me, and what are they going to do to me, and what are they going to do to my Iraqi staff? Because oftentimes they would kidnap the Western reporter and murder the Iraqis right on the spot. So, it was a terrifying experience. And, you know, right after it happened, we went to the… I finally got to the hotel safely because my driver just had been trained in defensive driving and managed to escape. And I was ordered not to leave the hotel for 3 days by the security advisers that we had. We had to change our car and the staff couldn’t come to work for an entire week because the idea was that everyone had been identified and it’s possible that they may be looking out for us again. So, it was very scary that, you know.