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Iraq: Khamail Muhsin's First Interview

Khamail Muhsin Khalaf at work (undated) (RFE/RL) April 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- On April 5, the body of RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondent Khamail Muhsin Khalaf was found in Baghdad, two days after she had been abducted. Soon after she began working for Radio Free Iraq in 2003, she was interviewed by a colleague and friend, Ferial Hussain-A-Salih.

Ferial Hussain-A-Salih: Dear listeners, many of you surely remember television presenter Khamail Muhsin. Here she is once again in that field, but this time through the microphone of Radio Free Iraq. Welcome, Khamail.

Khamail Muhsin: Hello, Ferial.

Do you miss the screen that I think you left -- you started in 1976, but what was the year you left the microphone and the television screen?

Khamail: The last newscast I read was -- the last war began on a Thursday, as I still remember -- and my final newscast was on Wednesday night. The war began the following morning.

Do you miss the screen now, or has the radio microphone compensated in your opinion?

Khamail: I surely miss it, because it represented my mother; it raised me and taught me. In spite of that, I find a lot of enjoyment in my current work with Radio Free Iraq, especially my being with good people. It is interesting and enjoyable work.

Hussain-A-Salih: But there is a difference between radio work -- with its interviews and constant following of the news -- that requires running around, in a race with events. Don't you feel that there is a big difference? By comparison, television work was within the studio, amid calm relaxation and air conditioning.

Yes, of course. My work was not what you would describe as tiring; I had a lot of practice and got used to it. My work only involved reading one newscast per day, and I had one other program. I had a car to pick me up and to return me. In my new work I use public transport, running after events in this burning sunshine. Like they say, it's a necessary evil. But we have become accustomed to this line of work: we cannot live far from the microphone.

Hussain-A-Salih: You are still new at Radio Free Iraq -- maybe about a month. Has it been one or two months?

Khamail: A month and a little bit.

Hussain-A-Salih: What are the things that you are now following up, during the daily broadcasts of Radio Free Iraq? What are the subjects that you enjoy following up and reporting on?

I enjoy following events in the Iraqi arena, but we don't always find what we're after. Today, for example, I went to Abu Ghraib. The time this took was from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. I also found that the vehicles transferring prisoners from Abu Ghraib had already left. I stood in the burning sun waiting for the second batch; they told us that the vehicles had gone to Amiriyah. I took a car and went to Amiriyah, but they told me there that they had just left. In the end, I ended up with nothing.

Khamail Muhsin Khalaf

Khamail Muhsin Khalaf

DEDICATED JOURNALIST: On April 5, the worst fears of the family and acquaintances of RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondent Khamail Muhsin Khalaf were realized when her body was recovered not far from her Baghdad home.

News of Khamail's death at the hands of her abductors elicited outrage and sorrow, and a vow by Iraq's Interior Ministry to bring to justice the killers of a woman who had "served Iraq for more than 30 years."

Khamail's husband, Muhammad, cited his late wife and mother of their three children's dedication to her work: "Even when she was ill, even when she was facing hard situations, even when she had family or social problems, her duty and attendance at work were most important."

Khamail's mother described the difficulty that authorities encountered even retrieving her daughter's body: "The police said that when commandos tried to clear the body from the street, gunmen were awaiting them and a shootout took place. The police commandos succeeded in clearing the body to Al-Yarmuk Hospital. I, her brother and his wife, and her uncles, we buried her, and here we are mourning her."

Please see:

Radio Free Iraq Reporter Found Dead In Baghdad

Iraqi Authorities Vow Justice For Journalist's Killers

Iraq: The True Voice Of Simple Iraqi People

Iraq War Said To Be Deadliest Ever For Journalists