Bryce Weblog

Dr. Ahmed Abdullah Fadaam brings Iraqi art and journalism to Elon

by Bryce Little                    October 22, 2008

Photos by Thomas Arcaro

Today Elon students received a dose of what the war in Iraq is like through the eyes of an Iraqi journalist. Dr. Ahmed Abdullah Fadaam is an Iraqi journalist writing a diary for “The Story with Dick Gordon” an award wining radio show on WUNC North Carolina Public Radio.

This partnership with WUNC is just one of many journalistic endeavors the artist-turned-journalist has taken part in over his years working as a reporter in Iraq.  Fadaam is currently the New York Times Baghdad Bureau Newsroom Supervisor where he also participates as a reporter, videographer, photographer and interpreter.

Fadaams career, as a journalist, was a surprising one. From 1996 until 2003 he worked as an instructor and professor of fine arts at Baghdad University. Fadaam was a sculptor who worked with both modeling and carving.

“Art was my life at that time. I could not imagine myself at that time as a man who would chase stories and be involved in policy and war,” said Fadaam, about being an artist before the U.S. invasion “I was trying

Ahmed Fadaam working on his sculpture for Elon University

Ahmed Fadaam working on his sculpture for Elon University

to have myself locked inside my own paradise and imagination, always do my art and enjoy it.”

What little paradise Fadaam had under Saddam Hussein’s control came to an end when the first U.S. bombs dropped on Baghdad on March 20, 2003.  Fadaams world as he knew it was destroyed in that instant. With the insanity that ensued after the initial attacks his classroom and artwork were looted or destroyed.

Though many fled Iraq during the bombings, Fadaam and his family stayed, deciding to wait out the constant shelling.

“When the bombing started my wife was insisting that we should leave Baghdad, that we find safer haven but I refused. And told her that when my children would grow up they would need to know what happened and I don’t want them to hear about it from someone else. I want them to hear about it from me and be a first hand witness.”

Fadaam met Dick Gordon in April  2003. Gordon needed a translator and worked with Fadaam for about a month on Gordon’s radio show, at the time NPR’s “The Connection.”

Fadaam continued his journalistic career after Gordon left Baghdad. He was a reporter for the Agence France Presse where he completed over 170 videos and 100 bylines.

Journalism has brought criticism on Fadaam and his family. The views of Americans and their place in Iraq have changed drastically since the beginning of the war, and because Fadaam works with western media, he is viewed no different. At first the Americans were accepted with open arms, but soon after the march to Baghdad ended, Americans became viewed as invaders, along with the journalists that followed.

“We were looked at as spies,” said Fadaam. “People who just want to take information and give it to the invaders.”

“Sometimes we were dealt with as blood-traders because people accused us of trading with their blood. ‘There is an explosion people died. That means business for me, that means there is news and you can sell it, that means you are trading with my blood.’”

Fadaam recounts the war with painful memories that range anywhere from death threats on his family to seeing bodies in the streets. He admits that the American people often times do not understand the plight of the people in Iraq and that there is a great disconnect between the two cultures.

“I am talking to the people that have invaded and destroyed my country.” Fadaam wanted to write in one of

The Elon sculture represents struggle for womens rights around the globe/

The Elon sculpture represents struggle for woman's rights around the globe.

his blogs after visiting the United States. “I have to remember all these memories and smile.”
His editor asked him shortly after to reword the phrase, or the blog would not be posted.

Fadaam will be at Elon until the last week in October  after he will head to UNC Chapel Hill. Fadaam is currently working on a sculpture for Elon that will be a testament to women’s rights in Iraq and around the world. Students and faculty alike have been invited to watch him work throughout the sculpting process.


One Response to 'Dr. Ahmed Abdullah Fadaam brings Iraqi art and journalism to Elon'

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  1. andersj said,

    Bryce, this is an OK start that needs a LOT of editing. It was good to see that you got something posted right away, but don’t post something that’s not ready. You should have been able to catch more of the errors yourself before you posted it! Sit with a friend who’s a good reader and go over it. There are many mechanical errors. I can’t list them all here.
    Don’t refer to him as “Dr.”, just as Ahmed Fadaam.
    In the first reference to Elon University, use the full name.
    The video is ineffective, and you should remove it. You weren’t close enough, and somebody with a squeaky chair pretty much ruined things for you. It’s OK to ask a classmate with better audio if you can link to her/his clip and credit it to them.
    You could pull a still frame off your video, though, because it is interesting to see Fadaam sort of framed by a student and the little cameras in the foreground.

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