January 25, 2006
We look at the story of journalist and doctor Ali Fadhil, who was
detained by U.S. forces in Iraq. On January 8th, American troops in
Baghdad blasted their way into Ali Fadhil’s home, an Iraqi journalist
working for the London daily, The Guardian, and TV’s Channel 4 in
Britain. Fadhil joins us in our Firehouse studio to describe his
harrowing experience. [includes rush transcript]
There is still no word on kidnapped American journalist Jill
Caroll. On Monday, her father Jim, appeared on CNN and urged her
kidnappers to release her alive. She was seized in Baghdad on January
7th. Meanwhile, The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called
for the U.S. military to free two journalists, one held without charge
in Iraq and the other detained at Guantanamo Bay. CPJ also demanded an
explanation from the U.S. military for holding a Reuters TV cameraman
for eight months without charges until his release on Sunday.
we look at the story of another journalist who was also detained by US
forces in Iraq - Ali Fadhil. On January 8th, American troops in Baghdad
blasted their way into Ali Fadhil’s home, an Iraqi journalist working
for the London daily, The Guardian, and TV’s Channel 4 in Britain.
Soldiers reportedly entered his home and fired bullets into the bedroom
where he and his wife and children were sleeping. Fadhil was hooded and
questioned for several hours. He says U.S. troops gave him $1,500
dollars for damage to his home and then dropped him off alone in a
dangerous Baghdad neighborhood.
In November, Fadhil won the
Foreign Press Association award for young journalist of the year. He’s
currently at work on a documentary about the US and British
governments’ misuse of Iraqi funds.
Fadhil says U.S. troops
have not returned several videotapes they took from him. The director
of the documentary, Callum Macrae, said, "The timing and nature of this
raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first
approached the U.S. authorities and told them Ali was doing this
investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our
- Ali Fadhil, award-winning journalist and general physician. He arrived in the US from Baghdad two days ago.
Ali Fadhil’s account of U.S. forces raiding his house.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Fadhil joins us in our Firehouse studio for
the first time since he's come to the United States yesterday. In
addition to being an award-winning journalist, Ali is a general
physician. He arrived in the U.S. from Baghdad this week. Welcome to
Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us.
ALI FADHIL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: So, first describe for us what happened to
you on January 8. This was actually the day after Jill Carroll, the
U.S. journalist was kidnapped.
ALI FADHIL: Yeah, exactly. And I think it’s [inaudible]
abduction. The U.S. forces came at 12:30, after midnight, and they
raided the house. They used explosives on the three doors of the house.
AMY GOODMAN: What time was it?
ALI FADHIL: 12:30, after midnight.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you sleeping?
ALI FADHIL: Yes, we were sleeping, all of us, because
there is no electricity in Iraq, so we sleep early. We were sleeping,
me, my wife, and my kids on one bed in our room, and the rest of the
house, they were sleeping downstairs. We just heard the explosion, and
then all of the windows were broken down. We thought there is a kind of
mortar or rocket fallen on our house. After that, my wife called me to
go downstairs, but I just said, "Let’s just wait." In just seconds, we
saw a rifle coming out through the door and shooting a couple of
bullets inside the room. We did not know where, he was just shooting. I
covered my wife and my child -- my daughter Sarah and Adam.
AMY GOODMAN: How old are they?
ALI FADHIL: Well, Sarah, she’s 3 years, and Adam, 7
months. And they were -- you know, they were crying and shouting and my
wife also crying, and just seconds we saw American soldiers surrounding
the bed. One of them took me from the bed, and he threw me, hurled me
out of the bed on the ground, and he tied my hands after searching me.
My daughter, Sarah, she was crying, and she was afraid from Americans
previously actually. Whenever she sees them in the streets, she’s
afraid from them. Even she calls Iraqi soldiers Americans. She can't
differentiate. So, she was calling for me, "Daddy! Daddy! Americans,
they're going to take you," as she always said. After that, they -- I
tried to ask them for the reason why they came here, what they are
AMY GOODMAN: And you could speak to them. You speak English.
ALI FADHIL: Yeah, exactly. I tried to explain that I'm a
reporter. They didn't care, and they just told me to shut up. Minutes
later, they took me downstairs, and they walked me down with tied
hands. I was looking to the house. There was about 20 soldiers in the
house. They were smashing furniture, looking everywhere, I don't know
for what at that time. And after that, they took me to the living room,
where they were also searching. They told me to sit on a chair, and one
of them came and he hooded my face. And then he brought a dog who was
barking on me. It was barking on me, and he threatened me if I talk one
word the dog going to bite me.
AMY GOODMAN: He put a hood over your head?
ALI FADHIL: Yeah, a hood over my head. And after that --
and the dog was barking on me. After that, one of the soldiers or maybe
a captain -- I don't know exactly -- he came to me with a Handycam
camera I usually use in my work, and there's a tape rolling inside, and
he said, "Watch this and explain to me why you have this?" And I
watched it. It was a tape from me from Palestine Hotel balcony,
shooting into the Green Zone, and I was talking to the camera. And I
said, "Yes, I shot this tape. I took it two days ago from Palestine
Hotel." And he said, "Do you know that these places were targeted
recently?" I said, "No, it wasn't, because yesterday I was inside the
Green Zone at the anniversary for the Iraqi army, and there was
shooting, filming, inside the Green Zone, and nothing is there."
Then he left me and returned back to me after minutes, and he
said, "Are you a reporter?" I said, "Yes, I am." And I explained whom I
am working for and -– the Guardian Films, British TV, Channel 4. And he
said, "This house belongs to someone whose name is Ali Mahmoud
al-Mashhadani. I said, "No, no way. This house belongs to my
father-in-law. His name is Abdul Karim Abbas Hamoudi. And he's been
living here eight years. He built this house. And Masshadani is a Sunni
house, while this house is a Shiite house. If you go to the other room,
you'll see a big picture of Imam Ali, which is an indicator that this
is a Shiite house."
Later on, he left me for like half an hour maybe and returned
back to me with a paper, a document, in his hand, and he showed me a
picture of a lady. I didn't know who is she at the time, wearing big
eyeglasses. I recognized that she could be the reporter kidnapped near
my neighborhood. I said, "I don't know. Maybe she's the reporter." He
said, "Yes, she is. How do you know her?" I said, "I don't know, I just
heard in the news." And then he said, "Do you know where is she?" I
said, "No." He said, 'She's in this house." I said, "No, she's not."
And he showed me another picture of a man with a beard, and he said,
"Do you know this guy?" I said, "Yes, I know this guy." He said, "How
do you know him?" I said, "Well, because his picture is inside the
Green Zone at the convention center where we go always, we reporters,
journalists, and I know that he's wanted for the U.S. forces." And he
said, "He's living in this house." I said, "No, he's not."
Then, he left me for a while. He came with another captain, an
officer. And they were talking to me nicely this time. And they said,
"We need to investigate with you. We need information. But we can't do
it properly here. We need to take you somewhere else and do the
investigation, and then we will release you after one hour." I said,
"It's fine, if you're taking just me, me alone, and not taking anyone
in the house." They said, "Yes, we just will take you. But we have to
keep your hands tied, and we’ll hood your face. This is for you and for
us, for the safety." And they put me in an armed vehicle, and the armed
vehicle drove like for maybe half an hour, or more than that, less, I
couldn't tell, and for a long distance, actually.
And finally, I found myself in a small room with wooden walls
and an oval table in the middle and the refrigerator and the bed on the
ground. And there was an American soldier with a pistol, and he was
guarding me. Seconds later on, two civilians, Americans, came into the
room, and they were wearing vests. And they said, "Mr. Fadhil do you
know why you are here?" I said, "Yes, to investigate me." He said, "No,
there was a mistake, and we apologize for what happened. We're going to
release you as soon as the curfew ends in the morning." I said, "So,
you didn't come for the reporter?" He said, "We can't say anything.
That's all what we can say, and that's it." I said, "Then, what about
the damages for the house and the compensations?" He said, "Of course,
in the morning, people will come and negotiate with you the
And they offered for me the bed, and I tried to sleep, but,
you know, because of the shock, it was very difficult for me to sleep.
I was thinking about what's happening back at home. Windows were, you
know, were broken, and it's very cold and the house is damaged. And my
daughter, I didn't know what she's doing at that time. After that, I
woke up in the morning, two men, also two different civilian men,
Americans, they were wearing vests and clothes looked like the local --
the private security people in Baghdad, and they said, "Mr. Fadhil,
excuse us, we want to talk with you, and now we can release you." I
And they took an envelope out of -- one of them took an
envelope out of his pocket. There was money, cash money, 100 bills, and
he said, "This is the money for the compensations. We'll offer you --
this is $1,000 for the damages of the house. And this is $500 for the
time you spent with us here in detention." And I said, "It's fine." I
didn't negotiate anything. I didn't say anything. I just want to go out
and see my family, because it's, for me, I thought it's going be longer
than this. But I was feeling alright. I mean, it was a mistake,
obviously. I took the money. I signed three documents, each one, for
the 500 bills – for the 500 dollars. And then they also they folded my
eyes and my hands, they tied my hands and they -- actually now they
released my hands at that time.
They took me in a civilian car, four-wheel drive car, and they
drove right and left -- I couldn't figure where I am at the beginning
-- and then they released me in a place. When I removed the hood from
my eyes, I saw barricades, long barricades, about three meters high
barricades from each side. And I didn't know where exactly. They gave
me money for the taxi. And I walked out of the barricades. I found
myself in the south gate of the Green Zone in an area which is very,
very dangerous, very well known for car bombs and assassinations,
because it's the gate where Iraqis working for Americans in the Green
Zone come in and out from.
And I took a cab, went back home. I found the house worse than
I expected. The car that we have, a BMW, it was damaged, and all of the
windows broken, the furniture smashed. My wife, she was crying when she
saw me. She hugged me, and she didn't believe I'm released. And I found
one of my -- my brother-in-law, he was beaten a lot by the American
forces, because he doesn't speak English. He couldn’t understand what
they want from him. And also my father-in-law, he was beaten, and he
had some wounds on his chest because of the glass. They clubbed him on
the ground, and there was some glass. So that's what I found.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Fadhil, Iraqi journalist who has done
a documentary that we're going to air for the first time in this
country. But that tape that they showed you, in your camera, do you
have it now?
ALI FADHIL: No, actually. No. I lost that tape. I
couldn't find it when I came back home. I couldn’t find that tape. It's
just one tape which shows me standing on the balcony and some shots of
the Green Zone, which we thought of using it in the film we are working
on right now for Channel 4.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you ask for it back?
ALI FADHIL: Yes, of course. We asked for it. And Channel
4 asked for it from the U.S. embassy, and recently, before a few days,
we received a letter from Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador in
Baghdad, for an apology for what happened, and he denied that there is
any tape taken from my house.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, what about Channel 4 talking to the
U.S. forces before you were taken away, before they raided your house,
to tell them that you were doing this film and wanted to interview
ALI FADHIL: Yeah, you see, the film we're working on,
it’s on the reconstruction. It's kind of dangerous to say that I'm
working on this film while I'm moving in different cities, because it's
[inaudible]as for my security, it has [inaudible] for the film that
we're working on, because we can't find anything. So what happened is
recently, the Channel 4 people, they contacted the U.S. side for
permissions for interviews with people responsible for the
reconstruction in Iraq. And that's why Channel 4 people, they have
their own concerns about the timing of the raid. But myself, I would
say it's a mistaken identity. This is what I believe.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Fadhil is our guest, has just come to
this country. He is making one film now, was arrested in the midst of
making that film. When we come back from break, we're going play an
excerpt of the film he finished for Channel 4 called Fallujah: The Real Story.
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