The following comes to me from the Washington (D.C.) Bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. McClatchy Newspapers owns the Daily News and 30 other daily newspapers, the Washington bureau produces terrific national and international news coverage for all McClatchy Newspaper and subscribers to the McClatchy wire service.
You may recall that Daily News reporter Rich Mauer worked on temporary assignment for the Baghdad bureau earlier this year.
Here is the note from Washington editor David Westphal:
Monday was a proud day to work for McClatchy. Six current and former Iraqi staffers in Baghdad were awarded the Courage Award in New York today by the International Women's Media Foundation. Four of the six were present for the awards lunch at the Waldorf Astoria, and one of them, Sahar Issa, gave a smash acceptance speech on everyone's behalf. Standing behind her were Ban Adil Sarhan, Huda Ahmed and Alaa Majeed. Not able to attend were Zaineb Obeid and Shatha al Awsy. . . .
We are so proud of them. Their reporting from the streets and roads and markets of Iraq is the foundation of our Baghdad report, and it was obvious from the crowd's reaction (and individual comments afterwards) that McClatchy's sparkling work on Iraq was widely understood and respected.
But this was a day to honor the courage of Ban, Huda, Alaa, Zaineb, Shatha and Sahar -- and by extension all of the Iraqis who have worked for us in Baghdad. Only the handful of you who have worked in Baghdad can fully glimpse what it means to be an Iraqi journalist working for an American news organization. The rest of us can only stand in awe, and express our thanks for all they have given, and risked, to tell the story of their country.
As Bob Woodruff said in his introduction, "These six Iraqi women have reported the war in Baghdad from inside their hearts."
This is the acceptance speech from Sahar Issa:
It is a great honor for me to stand here today.
To me, this award means that my colleagues and I have succeeded in what we set out to do; and that our voices have carried, through war, through death and sorrow, through sleepless nights and fear driven days in an effort to reflect the picture of our country as we see it, and of our people as only we can truly know them.
To be a journalist in violence ridden Iraq today, ladies and gentlemen, is not a matter lightly undertaken. Every path is strewn with danger, every checkpoint, every question a direct threat.
Every interview we conduct may be our last. So much is happening in Iraq. So much that is questionable. So much that we, as journalists, try to fathom and portray to the people who care to know.
In every society there is good and bad. Laws regulate the conduct of the society. My country is now lawless. Innocent blood is shed every day, seemingly without purpose. Hundreds of thousands have been killed for seemingly no reason. It is our responsibility to do our utmost to acquire the answers, to dig them up with our bare hands if we must.
But that knowledge comes at a dear price, for since the war started, four and a half years ago, an average of about one reporter and media assistant killed every week is something we have to live with.
We live double lives. None of our friends or relatives know what we do. My children must lie about my profession. They cannot under any circumstance boast of my accomplishments, and neither can I.
Every morning, as I leave my home, I look back with a heavy heart, for I may not see it again -- today may be the day that the eyes of an enemy will see me for what I am, a journalist, rather than the appropriately bewildered elderly lady who goes to look after ailing parents, across the river every day. Not for a moment can I let down my guard.
I smile as I give my children hugs and send them off to school; it's only after they turn their backs to me that my eyes fill to overflowing with the knowledge that they are just as much at risk as I am.
So why continue? Why not put down my proverbial pen and sit back?
It's because I'm tired of being branded a terrorist: tired that a human life lost in my country is no loss at all. This is not the future I envision for my children. They are not terrorists, and their lives are not valueless.
I have pledged my life - and much, much more, in an effort to open a window through which the good people in the international community may look in and see us for what we are, ordinary human beings with ordinary aspirations, and not what we have been portrayed to be.
Allow me, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to reach out. Help us to build bridges of understanding and acceptance. Even though the war has cast a dark shadow upon your nation and mine -- it is never too late.
I thank my bureau chief and our editors for retaining a high standard of balance and credibility, and I thank you all for being here today.