“I do go into a war zone knowing fully well that there is a possibility I might not come out alive or could lose a limb!”
1.What was your toughest challenge when you walked into the war zone?
Having to send stories to the newspaper but no means to send it! During the war in 2003 all the telecommunications towers in Iraq had been bombed so all the land lines and phone lines were down. Which meant there was no Internet, no TV, no fax machines, no nothing. I couldn’t make a single call or send any text message. It was a total blackout. It felt like I was back in the dark ages! The Western journalists who were there had come in with satellite phones and satellite modems. But these are really expensive – the phone itself as well as the data to use it. And I didn’t have much money. So I quickly made friends with these journalists and they helped email my stories to my newspaper using their satellite modems. But I had no way of knowing whether The Star received any of these emails or whether they were using the stories
2.Has the thought of being injured ever occurred to you and how did you overcome that to carry on?
To be honest I don’t dwell on such things. But I do go into a war zone knowing fully well that there is a possibility I might not come out alive or could lose a limb! And I do take precautions. I sleep fully dressed with my grab bag (with passport, cash, phone, notebook) next to me in case I need to run out if my room is hit. The minute I reach the place I am staying for the night, I am already planning my exit routes just in case! In 2009, I was covering the Israeli strike on Gaza. And I had just entered Gaza in the evening and staying with a Palestinian family because the hotels were closer. At night, everyone in the area kept their lights switched off in hope that the Israeli planes wouldn’t target them. So it was a bit eerie. That first night I was there the attack from the fighter planes and drones was really fierce. Bombs were falling everywhere and the house I was in was shaking. I couldn’t sleep! I held on to my grab bag and notebook ready to run. All the time I was thinking “Damn it let me at least file one story!”
3.What was the most rewarding experience covering that assignment?
I don’t know how to answer this question because there is nothing rewarding about war. War changes a person. For me perhaps my most rewarding experience is a deeper sense of appreciation of life, of family and friends and living in the moment. Because life can be so fleeting.