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[casi] The war on al-Jazeera




http://media.guardian.co.uk/iraqandthemedia/story/0,12823,1055780,00.html

The war on al-Jazeera

The US is determined to suppress the independent Arab
media

Dima Tareq Tahboub
Saturday October 4, 2003
The Guardian

When my husband decided to go to Baghdad, he knew that
I would protest. He told me that I was exaggerating
the risks; that there was nothing to be afraid of
because he was a reporter, an objective witness,
neither on this nor that side, and because of that was
protected by world protocol. He bid us farewell,
apologising for having been so busy. He promised to
make it up to me and our daughter, Fatimah, when he
returned.

Tareq left for al-Jazeera's Baghdad office on April 5.
He called me when he arrived - the journey was
hellish, he said. He sounded exhausted, because he was
sleeping only three hours a day, between shifts. Back
home in Jordan, our life wasn't any better; we could
hardly sleep and sat mesmerised in front of the TV
waiting for Tareq to appear in a live report so we'd
know he was OK.

On the early morning of April 8, I was still awake at
6am and saw his last live report, in which he
described the situation in Baghdad as being very calm
and quiet. I was relieved and went to sleep, only to
wake up one hour later to the sound of my mother
crying and yelling.

At first, I didn't know what had happened. I brought a
chair and sat trembling in front of the TV. The house
was suddenly full of people. I couldn't see or hear
anyone. I was waiting for the film to end. I was
waiting for the hero to appear and end all evil. I was
waiting for the story of my life to end with "and they
lived happily ever after". I couldn't cry, I was just
listening to the news, seeing again and again all
through the day how the Americans bombed the
al-Jazeera office and killed my husband.

I teach English translation. Once, when I was
lecturing on the translation of political terminology,
with reference to the UN charter and the declaration
of human rights, one of the students said: "How can
the US say that this war has a noble cause and a
humane agenda? All the dictionary definitions of war
involve bloodshed and overwhelming destruction."
Another student joined in: "Don't tell us about
charters and so-called noble missions, what we see is
what we believe." The whole class cheered; I had
nothing to say.

I used to tell my students that the American dream is
best described as life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness. Now I am convinced my students were right
and I wrong. I learned the hard way when the Americans
ruined my life, confiscated my liberty and ended my
happiness.

The US bombed al-Jazeera because it was angered by
reports that did not confirm its one-sided picture of
the war. For the past five years, al-Jazeera and other
Arab stations have been gaining credibility and fame
not only in the Arab countries but also in the west,
competing with international networks such as the BBC
and CNN. Al-Jazeera in particular became very popular
during the American war on Afghanistan. The channel
aired voice recordings of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders
as well as the speeches of President Bush and allied
leaders. This decision to broadcast both sides was in
keeping with its motto - "The opinion and the
counter-opinion" - but the Americans could not allow
such freedom of expression to prevail.

The US sent its first warning to al-Jazeera in
November 2001, bombing its Kabul office, destroying
its equipment and forcing its journalists to flee. An
al-Jazeera cameraman was sent to Guantanamo Bay as a
war prisoner.

In Baghdad during the war, the coverage of al-Jazeera
again focused mainly on the daily suffering and loss
of ordinary people; and again the Americans wanted
their crimes and atrocities to pass unnoticed. The two
bombs they dropped on al-Jazeera's Baghdad office were
the ones that killed my husband. Then the Americans
opened fire on Abu Dhabi television, whose identity
was spelled out in large blue letters on the roof. The
next target was the Palestine hotel, the headquarters
of world media representatives - an American tank
fired a shell and two more journalists were killed.
Thus the US tried to conceal evidence of its crimes
from the world and kill the witnesses.

The US didn't take responsibility for the attacks,
claiming that all three were mistakes and insisting
that it did not know the whereabouts of journalists,
apart from those "embedded" with its troops. Later,
al-Jazeera's director confirmed that it had given the
precise location of the station's Baghdad office to
the Pentagon three months before the war. My husband
and the others were killed in broad daylight, in
locations known to the Pentagon as media sites.

The US was not content with the message it sent to
al-Jazeera signed with the blood of my husband; it
accused al-Jazeera and other Arab channels of
anti-American bias in their coverage of the war. But
how biased can a picture of dead people be? A picture
of a destroyed house doesn't need a reporter to tell
its story, and the tears of children and refugees need
no interpreter.

Tell me, please, what should I do when my daughter,
just 20 months old, starts calling her late father's
name and looking for him all around the house? What
should I do when the clock strikes five and I keep
waiting for Tareq to open the door with his smiling
face but he never comes in? When the only way to have
some rest is to cry myself to sleep? When I see my
mother-in-law vomiting four times in less than half an
hour? When my daughter brings her toys to play with
me, as she used to do with her father, and I can't
even hold her? When my tears fall on my daughter's
face when I give her milk, remembering how her father
used to do it? When I feel ruined and desperate, with
no hope in life?

How should I raise my daughter? Allow me to answer the
last question. I will raise her never to forgive or
forget. Never to forget her father and never to
forgive those who killed him.

Six months have passed since the killing of Tareq, and
those responsible for his death are still in control,
claiming ethical supervision of the world, and basking
in their military achievements. The attacks on
al-Jazeera continue - Iraq's US-appointed governing
council has just warned the station that if it
continues to "misbehave", its licence in Iraq will be
revoked. Meanwhile, an al-Jazeera correspondent,
Tayssir Alouni - the only television journalist who
had a live link from Taliban Kabul, and a survivor of
both the Kabul and Baghdad bombings - has been accused
of helping al-Qaida and the Taliban. When he went to
Spain to obtain his PhD, he was arrested by the
Spanish authorities, widely believed to have been at
the behest of the Americans. He is now in a
high-security prison awaiting trial, despite there
being no concrete evidence against him.

As for me, six months have passed since my husband's
death and I can't find anyone to help me to launch
legal action against those who killed him. When I
thought I had found an outlet under Belgian law, US
threats and ultimatums got the law repealed and put an
end to my hopes of gaining justice.

When the Muslim Association of Britain invited me to
speak at last weekend's anti-war march in London, I
hesitated because of the despair I have been in. But
when I saw all these people marching against the war,
condemning those responsible for it, my hope and
belief in the solidarity of humankind, in humanity,
justice and truth was rekindled.

My life and happiness came to an end on April 8, but I
still have one last dream; that my Fatimah will have a
better future full of love and security, that her
heart and mind as well as mine will be relieved when
those who committed the cold-blooded murder of her
father and my husband are brought to justice.

 Dima Tareq Tahboub is a lecturer at the Arab Open
University in Amman and the widow of Tareq Ayyoub, a
correspondent for al-Jazeera

dima@mabonline.net




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