Reporters on the Job

SENSITIVITY TRAINING: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher says that all five of the subjects she met in the course of reporting today's story about Iraqi women (page 1) impressed her in some way. But Alia Khalaf, a professor of English literature, left the most indelible mark. "On the one hand, she has a rich and powerful command of English from studying everything from Shakespeare to Donne, and is doing her PhD dissertation on the plays of Harold Pinter," says Ilene. "On the other hand, she was living in this extraordinarily tiny, threadbare home with her mother and the memory of her late sister, who was killed when an Iraqi missile came through their roof during the war."

Ilene decided to profile Alia after they worked together on a story about a new, stricter dress code for women. "We went to Friday prayers for that story, and afterwards I was snapping some photographs outside the mosque. Two US helicopters were flying low overhead. I lifted my camera to try to capture the image of these helicopters hovering so close to the people and the mosque. 'No! Don't!' Alia screamed at me. 'They'll shoot you!' I almost laughed, and told her that the US military was not going to shoot me for taking a picture of the helicopters. It wasn't until afterwards that I realized why she felt that way and what she must be going through. After seeing a small missile hit her sister, anything seemed possible and nothing seemed safe. When this dawned on me, I felt insensitive about the way I had reacted to her concerns."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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