The first American woman abducted in Iraq

A freelance foreign reporter has been missing since Saturday.


Sarah Karnasiewicz
January 11, 2006 10:02PM (UTC)

After a controversial but voluntary media "blackout" that kept details of the attack out of American papers all weekend, yesterday the Christian Science Monitor confirmed that Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old freelance correspondent for the Boston-based paper, was kidnapped by assailants in Baghdad on Saturday.

An article in today's Los Angeles Times reports that "Carroll was seized by gunmen Saturday while reporting on efforts by Iraqi politicians to form a new government. She was leaving the headquarters of a Sunni political party by car when she was confronted in one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods. Her Iraqi interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, 32, was killed in the attack, but her driver escaped without injury." The article paints a portrait of Carroll as a driven, devoted journalist who went to the Middle East determined to write serious stories about the situation in Iraq, despite the extreme danger the work entailed. "I think she had that passion, and that gave her the energy to continue, even in perilous conditions," Ellen Tuttle, communications manager for the Monitor, told the Times.

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After graduating from U. Mass.-Amherst in 1999 with a degree in journalism, Carroll wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe and contributed as a freelancer to U.S. News & World Report, NPR, Salon and many other U.S. dailies. She was fluent in Arabic, and at the time of the attack she had been in Iraq, working for the Monitor, for one year.

In posts to a blog called "Lady in Arabia," maintained by her sister, the Times reports that Carroll spoke of wearing the traditional "head covering known as a hijab and a head-to-toe covering called an abaya." "This is what I wear every time I go out," Carroll explained. "One reason for the hijab is to make you so unattractive so people will deal with you as a person and not be distracted by your looks -- in my case, mission accomplished."

One of few foreign women still working in Iraq, Carroll was made especially aware of the perils she faced after her close friend, Marla Ruzicka, a Californian aid worker, was killed in an ambush last April. In a remembrance of Ruzicka, published last year on AlterNet, Carroll offered these prescient words: "The only thing we can say now is at least she died doing what she wanted, doing what she really, really believed in. If she were still here, she'd be most worried now about her driver's family and who will take care of all the other Iraqi families she was working with. She would point out, this happens to Iraqis every day and no one notices or even cares. There are no newspaper articles or investigations into what happens to them."

Carroll is the 36th journalist to be kidnapped since April 2004 and the first American woman.


Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit thefastertimes.com/streetfood and Signs and Wonders.

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