A British-Lebanese journalist’s story of the orphaned children she encountered on assignment in Iraq, her commitment to two of those young war victims and her private struggles with infertility.
While working as a reporter for Reuters, London Sunday Times foreign correspondent Jaber (Hezbollah, 1997) met and fell in love with a photojournalist who would become her husband. In the early 1990s the couple discovered that Jaber was infertile. They pursued in-vitro procedures and considered adoption, but “it was not until I saw United Airlines Flight 175 slice through the South Tower of the World Trade Center of 11 September 2001 that I knew precisely what I had to do.” Jaber returned to Iraq as a war correspondent. While working on a story about orphaned children and their injuries, she met two girls, three-year-old Zahra and her younger sister Hawra, who lost their parents and five other siblings in a missile attack. Profoundly moved by the tragedy and “unprepared for how strongly I would respond as a childless woman to [these] motherless child[ren],” Jaber set out, with the help of an aid worker, to ensure that the badly wounded older sister received the medical care she required. Talking to the children’s grandmother, the author also explored the cultural complexities of adoption and the feasibility of financial support. Jaber’s story showcases the tension between the demands of journalistic objectivity and her intense emotional involvement with the lives of Zahra and Hawra. As an Arab Muslim woman working for Western media outlets, the author offers a unique perspective on life as a journalist in the Middle East. Despite occasional moments of uncomfortable sentimentality, Jaber moves gracefully between her knowledge of, and respect for, Arab culture and her duties as a reporter.
A deeply personal account of one woman’s personal demons, maternal desires and professional responsibilities in the context of contemporary Middle Eastern politics.