Isam’s break from Iraq

Isam Rasheed: photo © Guy Smallman
Isam Rasheed shows the Branch his arrest record

IRAQI cameraman Isam Rasheed came to the March Branch meeting to thank us for the support we offered while we was in jail. Isam is a colleague of Junus Kathair, who was released from Abu Ghraib prison last summer following pressure from  LFB, among others.

The first time Isam was arrested he was with a Western journalist and was released after a few hours. The second, he was held for 17 days. Then in November he was filming the Friday address at the Abu Hanifa mosque in his neighbourhood of Baghdad - which is a centre of Sunni resistance to the occupation. Troops closed the doors, searched the mosque and opened fire - "I filmed them killing four people, one of them my close friend. One of the Iraqi National Guard gave me back my camera in secret, but the US troops took my tapes of them shooting people."

Michael Burke, who has worked with both Isam and Junus in Iraq, noted that Isam had filmed a 12-year-old girl being arrested and taken to Abu Ghraib in November 2003 - but because he is an Iraqi it wasn't broadcast. "We have to do more to build the credibility of Arab journalists," he said: "they are the ones breaking stories, because hardly any Western journalists go outside the Green Zone."

A member asked Isam how far the resistance is supported by "ordinary people". "We never know who will set off a suicide bomb near schoolchildren and who will set one off in the Green Zone," he replied. "It is chaos, and we don't know who is doing what - some want to oppose the occupation but there are these two faces to 'the resistance'." The greatest danger to him as a journalist was from US troops: "I will show the truth even if it reflects badly on Iraqi people; but they are the ones who most want the truth not to be told."

Isam thanked us for what we and the NUJ nationally did for him. "I forget the worst times in the jail when I remember what people outside are doing for me." He will return to his family and his work in Baghdad, with accreditation from Western media, in the near future.

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