Former Baghdad Bureau Chief Returns To Old Beat — Says Life Has Gotten Worse

By: Joe Strupp

Hannah Allam, the award-winning foreign correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, drew international recognition when she took over the Baghdad bureau of Knight Ridder three years ago and built it into one of the most ambitious news operations in that war-torn country.

Since leaving in 2005 to open what is now McClatchy’s Cairo bureau, Allam, now 28, has kept tabs on her old stomping grounds, recently returning to view life there as the war rages on. In her latest dispatch, Allam notes how life has changed, and not for the better, for both journalists and Iraqi citizens.

Here is an excerpt. The entire article can be found at McClatchy newspaper sites, such as www.charlotte.com.
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When I was last here in 2005, it took guts and guards, but you could still travel to most anywhere in the capital. Now, there are few true neighborhoods left. They’re mostly just cordoned-off enclaves in various stages of deadly sectarian cleansing. Moving trucks piled high with furniture weave through traffic, evidence of an unfolding humanitarian crisis involving hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Iraqis.

The Sunni-Shiite segregation is the starkest change of all, but nowadays it seems like everything in Baghdad hinges on separation. There’s the Green Zone to guard the unpopular government from its suffering people, U.S. military bases where Iraqis aren’t allowed to work, armored sedans to shield VIPs from the explosions that kill workaday civilians, different TV channels and newspapers for each political party, an unwritten citywide dress code to keep women from the eyes of men.

Attempts to bring people together have failed miserably. I attended a symposium called “How to Solve Iraq’s Militia Problem,” but the main militia representatives never showed up and those of us who did were stuck inside for hours while a robot disabled a car bomb in the parking lot.

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