Being a journalist and a woman is a double challenge in Iraq, says the UN in Iraq. Depicted persons are unrelated to the story.
© Larisa Epatko
Being a journalist and a woman is a double challenge in Iraq, says the UN in Iraq. Depicted persons are unrelated to the story.
Andreas Reventlow
Last updated: September 2, 2013

Uncovering truths and confronting gender bias in Iraq

Banner Icon “Despair is not an option in investigative journalism,” says Mayadah Daoud Hasan, an investigative journalist working with the IMS-supported Network for Iraqi Reporters for Investigative Journalism (NIRIJ).

In an often conservative and male-dominated Iraqi society, she has had to overcome a number of cultural and gender related obstacles to do her job, but at times, being a female journalist in Iraq also proves advantageous says Mayadah:

“My investigations on issues like children’s rights and women accused of terrorism could only be carried out by a woman.

“It’s my job to uncover the truth, and I will not surrender to the idea that women should stay at home.”

Mayadah Daoud Hasan has worked as a journalist for over eight years. Although she is based in Baghdad, where attacks on and killings of journalists are still common, Mayadah has no intention of giving up her trade. “You can never show fear or weakness as a journalist,” she says.

Ishaqi incident

Her most recent story covers the ‘Ishaqi incident’, the killing of 11 Iraqi civilians allegedly committed by United States forces in the town of Ishaqi, 60 miles north of Baghdad in March 2006. Mayadah’s investigation has led to the establishment of a civil society organisation campaigning to defend the rights of the victims and to re-open the investigation of the incident.

“When people slam the door in my face I just look around for other possibilities.”

The killings took place when US forces raided a house supposedly harbouring an Al-Qaeda operative. After the incident, Iraqi police accused the US troops of rounding up and deliberately shooting the residents of the house, including five children and four women.

A US investigation later found that the US military personnel involved had followed the proper procedures and rules of engagement, and had done nothing wrong.

Mayadah Daoud Hasan says her investigation runs counter to this claim.

During her investigation she met with over a dozen relatives of the victims and a number of policemen, judicial investigators and local officials.

“Contrary to US army press statements, all forensic reports from Tikrit General Hospital, which received the victims that morning (in March 2006), confirm that they were killed by bullets fired at close range to the head and chest.

“None of the victims had gunpowder on their bodies, which confirms, according to a forensics expert, that they did not use any type of firearms,” says the investigation.

According to the investigation, this contradicts the allegations of the US army that its soldiers were fired at from inside the house.

“This was (a) cornerstone (assertion) of the US military’s case concerning the massacre,” says Mayadah’s report. With her investigation published locally in Iraqi media and internationally in the second edition of the IMS-supported NIRIJ investigative journalism magazine, Mayadah is hoping a more thorough investigation of the Ishaqi incident will take place.

Every investigative report ‘a challenge’

She began her investigation in 2011 when Wikileaks published a classified diplomatic cable about the incident. Repeated rejections from the US military, the US Embassy in Baghdad, and Iraqi officials proved to be the biggest hindrance in doing the investigation:

“Every investigative report done in Iraq is a challenge.

“We do not have the appropriate laws on rights to access to information, and we have very few resources available. Just travelling to the Balad district (where the Ishaqi incident took place) was immensely difficult.”

Although killings of journalists in Iraq have gone down over the last couple of years, authorities and other groups still present journalists like Mayadah with immense challenges for carrying out basic journalistic tasks:

“We are passionate about our work, but most sources are reluctant to have us quote them when it’s a sensitive topic like corruption or terrorism.”

“When people slam the door in my face I just look around for other possibilities.”

Mayadah Daoud Hasan has a degree in economics and has won a number of acclaimed journalism awards, including the UNICEF Media Award on Child Rights in December 2012 for an investigation she did with assistance from the IMS-supported Network for Iraqi Reporters for Investigative Journalism (NIRIJ).

Founded in May 2011 with the support of IMS, NIRIJ is the first network for investigative journalists in Iraq. This article originally appeared on IMS

blog comments powered by Disqus