By Laura Smith
October 22, 2008
“Clay is like a disease, it gets you and journalism is the same. Once you’ve built this sense of curiosity inside you, nothing can get rid of it.”
Iraqi Journalist Ahmed Fadaam described his two passions of sculpting and journalism to Elon University reporting students on October 22.
Fadaam came to Elon to speak to students and will be staying around for the next few weeks to put his other talent to good use, building a sculpture for the university.
He is a man of may talents. He has also seen more harsh scenes of reality than most other people have.
Fadaam thought journalism was the last profession he would get into. A talented sculptor, Fadaam worked with clay, stone and marble to create works of art.
“Art was my life at that time,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine myself as a man who would chase stories and be involved in policy and war. I was trying to have myself locked in my own paradise of imagination.”
Fadaam eventually began working for the Agence France-Press, a French News agency, in Baghdad as a translator then as a reporter eventually establishing the AFP video desk, which he ran for two years.
In 2006, journalist Dick Gordon, creator of WNC program called The Story, asked Fadaam if he would write diaries from Baghdad to help explain the life of an Iraqi man. Currently, Fadaam has written around 30 entries and has won five major awards for them in the U.S.
Through the diaries, “I was trying to tell the American people about who the Iraqis are,” Fadaam said. “How they used to live and how they are living right now.”
In 2007, Fadaam began working with The New York Times and eventually left Baghdad earlier this year in 2008. His family lives in Syria due to danger in Iraq and multiple death threats they have received die to Fadaam’s journalistic profession.
Fadaam encountered a different reaction than he expected when he moved to the United States.
“After coming to the States, I found that there were lots of Americans who opposed the war… something most Iraqis do not understand, cannot imagine,” he said. “They think that all Americans want to go to war, want to destroy Iraq.”
Fadaam shared the tumultuous experiences Iraqis face with their government.
“They make you feel endangered al the time, under threat all the time, and you have to trust them; you have to follow them,” he said. “There is no freedom of speech …and everything is controlled.”
Fadamm also explained the relationship between the Iraqi people and Americans.
“The problem is that there is no direct contact between people here in the States and the Iraqi people,” he said. “I think there should be a communication established between the two people and to try to talk to each other away from policy, away from government, away from war, just people to people.”
He explained that no matter if one is an Iraqi or and American, both are involved in the current war and are just as susceptible to be killed.
“War means death and death means that the ignorant and the clever guy are both equal,” he said. “They can both die with the same bomb.”
According to Fadaam, the Iraqi people are very interested in the upcoming U.S. elections and what they mean to their country. He told the students that back in 2004, the Iraqi’s did not want George W. Bush to be re-elected so the war would end. Now, they feel that there has been too much done for the U.S. to back out now.
“Now the Iraqis are following up with the elections knowing both candidates are calling for ending the war it’s just a matter of when,” Fadaam said.
“But the main question is what are you going to do to us before leaving,” he continued. “You’ve started something and you should finish it and at the same time and you have broken something and you should fix it.”
Finally, Fadaam explained how American and Iraqi media differ in how and what they report from the conflict. He said that the American media is more focused on what makes the money and is not more concerned with the violence.
He explained that journalists used to take time to interview families of victims wounded or killed in the violence but now it is so common that journalists treat it just like any other story with repeated information with no personal or emotional strings attached.
“This is scary,” Fadaam said. “Death and killing became something unimportant; something that isn’t worth putting a lot of effort in explaining it, but this is what’s happening.”
Fadaam plans to continue both sculpting and reporting in the near future.