Reporters on the Job

Jill Carroll's Story: Some reporters see themselves merely as history's witnesses – scribes on the sidelines. They are uncomfortable in the limelight. Jill Carroll is one of those who prefer the anonymity of print journalism. She lost that when she was taken hostage, though she hopes (perhaps naively) to eventually regain it. Today, when recognized in a coffee shop, she stops going there.

Her release on March 30 was the answer to prayers across the globe, including her own. Jill has a profound sense of gratitude – and awe – for the efforts of so many on her behalf. She never expected that "a lowly freelancer," as she described herself, would warrant such attention from the US and Arab governments, or from the Monitor. But she doesn't consider herself a hero, or want to be a pro-war or antiwar icon. She's a journalist who pursues the facts, on whichever side of the political or religious divide she can find it.

Her celebrity today has come at a great price to her and her Iraqi assistants. She blames herself for Alan Enwiya's death: "I made a mistake, and Alan's children no longer have their father." Her driver, Adnan Abbas, the only other eyewitness to Alan's murder, has fled Iraq with his wife and four children, including a newborn.

Jill's family and friends have repeatedly told her that she did not kill Alan. Her kidnappers pulled that trigger. Iraqi insurgents took his life and her freedom for 82 days.

Still, Jill often wept as she wrote the 11-part series that begins today. Reliving the story was painful, and she did it with reluctance. Her captors ordered her never to tell it: She fears retribution to her family and to her colleagues in Baghdad. Part of her wants to bury the experience, to forget it ever happened.

She finally decided to write, at the urging of Iraqi and American colleagues, because she is committed to her career in journalism. Observing and truth-telling are a part of her identity. Jill has valuable information and insights about her captors, some of whom are key figures in the Iraqi insurgency. She witnessed a movement that included children and mothers, whole families who exhibited ardent devotion to their brand of Islam – and to chilling brutality.

Courage often means doing what is right despite your fears. By sharing her story, Jill defines courage for all of us.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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