Reporters on the Job

It Takes a Village to Greet a Reporter: The contact that staff writer Mark Sappenfield worked with in Afghanistan told Mark that they would be meeting "some people" at the school where locals formed a community watch to protect the building from attack (see story).

"I had no idea that meant all the tribal elders of the district," says Mark. "I wasn't rude enough to stand up and count how many were there, but discreetly I came up with more than 20.

The group sat in the shade of the eucalyptus trees, in two rows of chairs facing each other. "At the head of the rows was a small table with a framed picture of President Hamid Karzai and an arrangement of paper flowers," Mark says. Young men brought out benches on which they placed green tea and biscuits. "There was joking about the fact that I was melting because I dressed too warmly," says Mark. "Alongside great brutality here, there is equal hospitality."

Leaving Is Difficult: Her introduction to a young Iraqi man who'd recently made it to Jordan (see story) made staff writer Ilene Prusher's story possible. "This young man had been working as an interpreter for a US TV station's Baghdad bureau. But when his father was assassinated last fall – he was a secular and outspoken Shiite – his family decided he should leave."

The man told Ilene that he wouldn't have been able to enter Jordan if employees from the TV crew hadn't met him at the airport and shepherded him through stringent security, necessary paperwork in hand. New restrictions mean that most younger Iraqis are turned back, and Syria has also been clamping down on Iraqi arrivals.

Still, Ilene says, Jordan and Syria have had generous policies in comparison with the US. There are more than 700,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan and about 1 million in Syria. The US accepted 202 Iraqi refugees last year – a figure that could rise to 7,000 this year.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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