Journalist and Sculptor Ahmed Fadaam talks to Elon students about his life, Iraq and the media

By Daniel Temple

Oct. 22, 2008- Ahmed Fadaam, journalist, sculptor and professor, came to talk to Elon students about his life and his role in media depictions of his home country, Iraq.

Fadaam, who was originally an artist and professor, said that his first love was not journalism but sculpting.

“I just wanted to wanted to lock myself in my own paradise of my own imagination,” he mused.

However due to the current war in Iraq, his job as a professor disappeared, and so Fadaam was forced to seek work translating English.  In 2003, Fadaam began working as an interpreter and fixer for NPR’s The Connection ,  thus spawning his journalism career.

“At the time art was my life,” said Fadaam, “I couldn’t imagine that I would chase stories and become involved with policy and war.”

Ahmed Fadaam lecturing to students

Ahmed Fadaam lecturing to students

Fadaam quickly adapted and progressed as a journalist. He even won 5 major awards in 2007 while working for The New York Times for “Ahmed’s Diary” of which he was the primary author.

Still though, one of his main objectives was to depict his native Iraq in a way that most people in America are unaccustomed to seeing.

“The media tends to show the ali-babas of Iraq,” Fadaam pointed out, “They don’t show the good side and the good people and someone needs to do it.”

Fadaam also talked about the perception of Americans in the eye of the Iraqi people. He discussed in particular how when Saddam Hussein was first overthrown, the people held mixed opinions of Americans.

“At that time some people would say “yes we’re happy we got rid of Saddam,” said Fadaam, “And others would say “no, this occupation is wrong, our country is being destroyed.”

Fadaam also talked about how children in Iraq are told that the U.S occupation is the result of the war and tragedy, and that prior to their arrival, the country was in a state of peace. As a result, the children grow up resenting America and its citizens.

“The problem is that there is no direct contact between the Iraqis and the Americans,” said Fadaam, “Iraq needs to know there is a difference between U.S administration and the American people.”

Fadaam went on to discuss his concern over the media’s desire for violence. He stated that it was “scary” how bored people become with death, and that it will often take a significant amount of casualties and destruction before the media takes notice.

Ahmed Fadaam working on a sculpture (photo courtesy of Tom Arcaro)

Ahmed Fadaam working on a sculpture (photo courtesy of Tom Arcaro)

Fadaam also talked about what America needed to do in order to try and improve the current situation in Iraq. He mentioned that there needed to be a greater push for true structure and order by the American administration.

“Once, we used to have a state of law, but now we don’t,” said Fadaam. “The political process that was started by the Americans, started on the wrong basis.”

Fadaam then told an extremely poignant story about an attempted democratic process in Iraq, established by Americans. In the story, the Iraqis were told to vote for whom they thought would be competent leaders. However the Americans then told the Iraqis they had to split up into their specific ethnic groups and then decide on leaders from their respective groups.

“Basically you have divided society into groups,” said Fadaam. “You are telling them that they are not one, you are different groups, true you are living in the same city, but you are not united.”

Fadaam then closed with some advice and some final speculation as to the future of his career.

“If you are a journalist and you believe in something, then do it,” he said.

“As for my future, I can’t imagine giving up my art or journalism,” Fadaam remarked. “Clay is like a disease, and journalism is like the same sickness. Once you get that curiosity, you simply can’t let go of it.”


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One Comment on “Journalist and Sculptor Ahmed Fadaam talks to Elon students about his life, Iraq and the media”

  1. andersj Says:

    Saddam – not Sadaam. The misspelled name will hurt your overall grade. Always verify names – it takes only a few seconds to check the name of a famous person such as Saddam Hussein. Never trust yourself when you can check so easily!

    Up toward the top, you note that he worked as a translator. He did not work FOR the English; he translated English. There’s a difference. He has mostly worked for US-based media companies, although he also worked with Agence France-Presse. Also, he was NOT working for A radio station; he worked for a program that was broadcast on many stations through National Public Radio and later recorded his diaries for another show that was broadcast on many stations through American Public Media.

    It’s not enough to get some pictures and organize some details. The details have to be accurate.

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