The Guardian October 8, 2003


Silencing the truth. The war on al-Jazeera

The US is determined to suppress the independent Arab media says Dima 
Tareq Tahboub whose husband, a journalist for al Jazeera TV was killed by 
US bombs when they bombed the TV station's office in Baghdad several months 
ago.

When my husband decided to go to Baghdad, he knew that I would protest. He 
told me that I was exaggerating the risks; that there was nothing to be 
afraid of because he was a reporter, an objective witness, neither on this 
nor that side and, because of that, was protected by world protocol.

On the early morning of April 8, I woke up to the sound of my mother crying 
and yelling. The house was suddenly full of people. I couldn't see or hear 
anyone. I was waiting for the [TV] film to end. I was waiting for the hero 
to appear and end all evil. I was waiting for the story of my life to end 
with "and they lived happily ever after".

I couldn't cry. I was just listening to the news, seeing again and again 
all through the day how the Americans bombed the al-Jazeera office and 
killed my husband.

I teach English translation. Once, when I was lecturing on the translation 
of political terminology, with reference to the UN charter and the 
declaration of human rights, one of the students said: "How can the US say 
that this war has a noble cause and a humane agenda? All the dictionary 
definitions of war involve bloodshed and overwhelming destruction." Another 
student joined in: "Don't tell us about charters and so-called noble 
missions, what we see is what we believe". The whole class cheered.

The US bombed al-Jazeera because it was angered by reports that did not 
confirm its one-sided picture of the war. For the past five years, al-
Jazeera and other Arab stations have been gaining credibility and fame not 
only in the Arab countries but also in the west, competing with 
international networks such as the BBC and CNN.

Al-Jazeera's decision to broadcast both sides was in keeping with its motto 
 "The opinion and the counter-opinion"  but the Americans could not 
allow such freedom of expression to prevail.

The US sent its first warning to al-Jazeera in November 2001, bombing its 
Kabul office, destroying its equipment and forcing its journalists to flee. 
An al-Jazeera cameraman was sent to Guantanamo Bay as a war prisoner.

In Baghdad during the war, the coverage of al-Jazeera again focused mainly 
on the daily suffering and loss of ordinary people, and again the Americans 
wanted their crimes and atrocities to pass unnoticed. The two bombs they 
dropped on al-Jazeera's Baghdad office were the ones that killed my 
husband.

Then the Americans opened fire on Abu Dhabi television, whose identity was 
spelled out in large blue letters on the roof. The next target was the 
Palestine hotel, the headquarters of world media representatives  an 
American tank fired a shell and two more journalists were killed. Thus the 
US tried to conceal evidence of its crimes from the world and kill the 
witnesses.

The US didn't take responsibility for the attacks, claiming that all three 
were mistakes and insisting that it did not know the whereabouts of 
journalists, apart from those "embedded" with its troops. Later, al-
Jazeera' s director confirmed that it had given the precise location of the 
station's Baghdad office to the Pentagon three months before the war. My 
husband and the others were killed in broad daylight, in locations known to 
the Pentagon as media sites.

The US accused al-Jazeera and other Arab channels of anti-American bias in 
their coverage of the war. But how biased can a picture of dead people be? 
A picture of a destroyed house doesn't need a reporter to tell its story, 
and the tears of children and refugees need no interpreter.

Six months have passed since the killing of Tareq, and those responsible 
for his death are still in control, claiming ethical supervision of the 
world, and basking in their military achievements.

The attacks on al-Jazeera continue  Iraq's US-appointed governing council 
has just warned the station that if it continues to "misbehave", its 
licence in Iraq will be revoked.

Six months have passed since my husband's death and I can't find anyone to 
help me to launch legal action against those who killed him. When I thought 
I had found an outlet under Belgian law, US threats and ultimatums got the 
law repealed and put an end to my hopes of gaining justice.

When the Muslim Association of Britain invited me to speak at last 
weekend's anti-war march in London, I hesitated because of the despair I 
have been in. But when I saw all the people marching against the war, 
condemning those responsible for it, my hope and belief in the solidarity 
of humankind, in humanity, justice and truth was rekindled.

My life and happiness came to an end on April 8, but I still have one last 
dream; that my Fatimah will have a better future full of love and security, 
that her heart and mind as well as mine will be relieved when those who 
committed the cold-blooded murder of her father and my husband are brought 
to justice.

* * *
Dima Tareq Tahboub is a lecturer at the Arab Open University in Amman (Jordan) and the widow of Tareq Ayyoub, a correspondent for al-Jazeera dima@mabonline.net Acknowledgement to The Guardian (London) (Abridged)

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