When Is a 14-Year-Old Girl a ‘Woman’?

By: Sarah Weber

Ever since the case of the raping and killing of an Iraqi and the alleged murder of three of her family members by U.S. troops went public, the age of the rape victim had been in dispute, ranging from about 15 to 25. Two days ago, Reuters and others news agencies produced proof that she was 14, based on a passport and identity card. Most news organizations then started calling her a girl — but some persist in referring to her as a “woman.”

The girl was apparently born August 19, 1991. Yet a widely published AP story today by Robert H. Reid repeatedly referred to the girl, whose last name was al-Janabi, as a ?young Iraqi woman” and later again as a “woman.” The story was in reference to the gag order being requested by attorneys for Steven D. Green, an ex-soldier who is one of the men charged with the rape and murders. It begins: “An al-Qaida-linked group posted a Web video today purporting to show the mutilated bodies of two Fort Campbell soldiers, claiming it killed them in revenge for the rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman by American troops from the same unit.”

A separate AP story today by Juan Lozano, on the soldiers’ families defending them, also refers to the girl as a “young woman.” Another Reid story later in the day on suicide bombings also used “young Iraqi woman.”

In Tuesday’s Washington Post, an article by Joshua Partlow refers to the teen as an ?Iraqi woman.? USA Today featured the AP “young woman” story. The CNN site called the victim a “young female” and a “woman.” A CNN report aired Tuesday by Nic Robertson continued to refer to the child as a “young woman.” So did the BBC.

Jim Lehrer on his PBS “NewsHour” last night referred to her a “woman.” At the CBS News site today, a joint CBS/AP story uses “young woman.” The Houston Chronicle goes with “young Iraqi woman” in an article by James Pinkerton for Wednesday’s edition.

Yet a full day earlier, and again today, The New York Times was calling her a “girl.” The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday referred to her as a “teenage Iraqi” and later as a “teen.” Bloomberg used “girl” and McClatchy’s dispatch chose “teenager.” Reuters simply stated her age: 14.

Other stories continue to offer caveats, claiming that the age of the young victim was ?in dispute.? The Reid AP story referred to an FBI affidavit concerning Green?s charges, which estimated al-Janabi to be about 25. The article went on to say that ?a doctor at the Mahmoudiya hospital gave her age as 14. He refused to be identified for fear of reprisals.? The AP story does not mention the Reuters release of al-Janabi?s passport and the other supporting documents.

An AP wire photo published with many of the stories does refer to the victim as a “girl.”

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UPDATE: In a story for Wednesday’s Washington Post, following the E&P story above, reporter Joshua Partlow, who had earlier described the 14-year-old as a woman, now refers to her an an “Iraqi girl.”

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