Book > Modern Non-fiction > WAITING FOR AN ORDINARY DAY BY SARA SARNAZ
The Unraveling of Life in Iraq
Farnaz Fassihi is an
Iranian-American journalist and The Wall Street Journal's deputy bureau
chief for the Middle East and Africa. She was a war correspondent in the Middle
East from 2002 until 2006. While many reporters were covering the political
aspects of war, Farnaz Fassihi captured the ordinary life of Iraqi people,
writing about their lives and their suffering in her memoir titled “Waiting for
an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq”.
In an interview with
Sara Sarnaz, Fassihi talked about her personal journey and life in the
Sara Sarnaz: Thanks for having this
interview, please tell us about yourself. How did you become a journalist?
Farnaz Fassihi: I was born in the United States to Iranian
parents and grew up both in Tehran, Iran and Portland, Oregon. My family left
Iran after the Iran-Iraq war when I was ten years old and then returned again
when the war ended. I decided to follow them back to Iran out of curiosity and
yearning to be with all my relatives again. In my freshmen year in college, in
Tehran, I stumbled into journalism by becoming a translator for an American
journalist visiting Iran. I was hooked. I loved how journalism allowed me a
pass into people's lives and a chance to get under the society's skin. One day
I could be interviewing a president and the next day talking to a refugee in a
camp. There is serendipity and adventure and more importantly, the gratifying
sense that what you do matters. I also always loved writing and so the creative
aspect of the craft appealed to me. I moved to New York after college and
attended Columbia University's graduate School of Journalism. I worked for
several years as a free-lancer and then a local news reporter for American
daily newspapers such as The New York Times, The Providence Journal in
Rhode-Island and The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey.
must say that my career completely changed after Sept.11, 2001. I went to cover
the war in Afghanistan and then never really came back home, I went from one
war zone to the next traveling all over the Middle East. I joined
The Wall Street Journal in January 2003 and was immediately dispatched to Iraq
to cover the pending war.
dream was always to become a foreign correspondent and cover the Middle
East. Unfortunately, covering the Middle East also means covering wars. I
also think my personal history has something to do with my attraction to
wars. My life was turned upside down as a child in Iran during the
revolution and the war, we left our home and my family became immigrants.
So I've always wanted to make sense of conflicts and tell the stories of
people caught in the midst.
For Iranian families, it’s usually very
hard to send their daughter to a battleground. You have covered three wars. How
did you manage to become a war correspondent? How did your family react to your
Sept.11th, 2001, I was a few blocks away from the World Trade Center towers
when they collapsed, I was running toward the towers along with firefighters
and policemen when it came crumbling down and thick black smoke and a sea of
debris surrounded us. I thought I was going to die but when the smoke cleared,
instead of running the opposite direction, I ran back toward the destruction.
I couldn't even imagine otherwise. I was there to tell the story and
I had to do it, no matter the risk or difficulty. I spent two
weeks at ground zero in New York and then begged my editors to send
me to Afghanistan to cover the war. Why did I want to go? Because it was the
biggest story of my generation and I wanted to see it for myself and
witness history in the making. I wanted to tell the story of what was happening
on the ground. I think war correspondents are driven by something much deeper
than ambition or adventure. War reportage is not for every one. You have to
have a real passion and a sense of mission. Because you not only witness
horrendous things but you are constantly risking your life and well-being and
living in very primitive conditions, often without clean water, electricity and
sometimes even food.