Sahar Al-Haideri, 1962-2007

The winner of the 2007 Kurt Schork Award in International Journalism was not present during the ceremony at London's Frontline club, earlier this week.
Sahar Al-Haideri, a 44-year old Iraqi reporter and a mother of three, was gunned down in Mosul in June 2007. pays tribute to Al-Haideri, and highlights the work of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) where she worked.
By Staff
Sahar Al-Haideri. R.R.

The first story Sahar Al-Haideri pitched to IWPR in June 2005 was about insurgents trying to impose Taleban-style restrictions on women in Mosul. She described how female lecturers and civil servants were being targeted and killed.

The last story Sahar Al-Haideri wrote for IWPR was about photographers and camera men being murdered by Islamic militants in Mosul. It was published in October 2007 as part of an IWPR special report on the media in Iraq which is republishing today.

By then, Sahar Al-Haideri had been killed herself.

On June 7, 2007 she was gunned down as she was leaving her house in Mosul.

"Sahar was great", says Mariwan Hama-Saeed, who worked alongside her at IWPR. "She had more than eighteen years of experience as a journalist in Iraq, but she was still very eager to learn from others. As a reporter, she was very aggressive."

Al-Haideri knew the risks.

She had learned from the Mosul police that she was number four on a hit-list prepared by the so-called Emir of the Islamic State in Mosul.

"Sahar had been threatened like ten times before," says Hama-Saeed, "and she had escaped one kidnapping attempt. She had already moved her family to Syria for safety but she kept coming back to Musul to do more stories. She was killed doing those stories."

Al-Haideri's story is one about the risks of being a journalist in Iraq; at least 206 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion of 2003, according to Reporters without Borders.

But it is also a story about being a woman in Iraq. Al-Haideri, a mother of three, was particularly interested in highlighting women's issues, in her print reporting for IWPR and local media, and in her radio talk show, 'The Other Half.'

One of her biggest stories was an investigation into honor killings in the Yezidi community.

In her article, 'Honor Killing sparks fears of new Iraqi conflict', she portrayed the brutal murder of a 17-year-old Yezidi young woman who was stoned to death by a large mob for getting married to a Muslim boy in Iraq's northern province of Ninewa.

Lindsey Hilsum, China correspondent for the UK's Channel 4 News and a member of the Kurt Schork Award jury, praised the article as "exceptional."

It was also prophetic. Since Al-Haideri's article was published, hundreds of Yezidi have been killed by Sunni extremists who wrongly accuse them of being devil-worshippers.

And there is another statistic which Al-Haideri would not have missed. In 2007, 598 women in northern Iraq have been burnt, beaten, shot, strangled, thrown from tall buildings, force-fed with lethal drugs, crushed by vehicles, drowned, decapitated or made to kill themselves so far this year, exceeding the 553 recorded for the whole of 2006.

Today, we republish some of Sahar Al-Haideri's work and that of her colleagues at IWPR.

For an overview of all of Sahar's articles for IWPR, and links to her radio show, The Other Half, click here.

For IWPR executive director Anthony Borden's obituary in The Guardian, click here.

Click here for an article about Sahar by IWPR's Iraq program manager, Susanne Fischer.

IWPR has created the Sahar Journalists' Assistance Fund to help local journalists and their families in case of death in service.

From IWPR's special report on the media in Iraq:
A captive audience: Baghdad's TV escapists
Posted on 10/01/2007 - 17:57
Residents of the Iraqi capital watch hours of TV cartoons, films and music shows every day. Anything to get a break from the chaos outside their homes.  بغداد: يشاهد السكان ولعدة ساعات افلام الكارتو

Islamic militants target photographers in Mosul
Posted on 10/01/2007 - 17:30
Photographers and cameramen in Mosul are high on the hit list of Islamic militants, who believe the Quran prohibits the capturing of images. Iraq, Mosul:  Medical center. AFP PHOTO/MAURICIO LIMA 

Biased media in Kirkuk inflame tension
Posted on 10/01/2007 - 17:12
Rival sectarian groups in this northern Iraqi city are using their respective media as propaganda weapons. Iraq, Kirkuk : Demonstration against the Turkish military threat. AFP PHOTO/MARWAN IBRAHIM  

Climate of fear stymies Basra reporters
Posted on 10/01/2007 - 16:30
Journalists in Basra risk death if they try to report candidly about the troubled Iraqi city. Iraq, Basra : Homeless demonstrate in the city, AFP PHOTO/Hani AL-OBEIDI 
Sahar Al-Haideri's article on the Yezidi community:
Honor killing sparks fears of new Iraqi conflict
Posted on 10/01/2007 - 10:02
The Yezidi minority has so far stayed well out of Iraq’s internecine battles, but violence with their Muslim neighbors has escalated following the murder of a girl who apparently converted to Islam. DV177066.jpg