Monday, May 08, 2006

Was Atwar Bahjat Beheaded?

Source: Boston Globe

Atwar Bahjat as seen in her last report to Al-Arabiya before her murder.

Yesterday, I received e-mails regarding Hala Jaber's published article in The Sunday Times where she claims Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat was beheaded by her captives from watching a video of her beheading. Here's an excerpt of her article:

We now know that it was not that swift for Bahjat. First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but particularly so for a pious Muslim who concealed her hair, arms and legs from men other than her father and brother.

Then her arms were bound behind her back. A golden locket in the shape of Iraq that became her glittering trademark in front of the television cameras must have been removed at some point — it is nowhere to be seen in the grainy film, which was made by someone who pointed a mobile phone at her as she lay on a patch of earth in mortal terror.


I'm not saying the video doesn't exist. I'm not saying an Iraqi woman wasn't beheaded. But until I see the video for myself, I'll have my doubts that the woman in the video is Atwar.

I accessed the wire photos -- thanks to Mark's job. There are three pictures of Atwar Bahjat after her body was recovered. None of them gave me the impression she got decapitated. I can't download the pictures because I'm not a member of AP Images. But, I will describe them to you.

First picture shows Atwar's body laying on a hospital strecher next to her cameraman's body that lays on a strecher next to her. They're both fully dressed. Her headscarf is missing. There's a lot of blood on her forehead. There are stains of blood on her jacket. Nothing in the way the medic was inspecting her body indicates she was beheaded.

Second picture shows a team of Iraqi medics inspecting her body from the waist and above. I noticed a lot of blood on her jacket. Her head appears attached to her body.

Third picture shows an Iraqi medic wiping the blood from her forehead. Her turtle neck doesn't have a sign of blood stains. This is a close up picture of her face. Her head is definitely part of her body unless I'm looking at another Atwar Bahjat's body. Particularly, the skin is stretched over from her chin to where it goes into her collar. If she was beheaded, it would be loose. Shouldn't the turtle neck also be very bloody even if she was stripped then dressed again after her murder?

The cutlines from the three pictures read:

Al-Arabiya's Atwar Bahjat and two colleagues from another media company were in Samarra to cover the bombing Wednesday of a revered Shiite shrine, and their bullet-riddled bodies were found Thursday morning near their vehicle, cameras and satellite dish.

The pictures were taking on Feb, 23, 2006 by an Iraqi photographer who works for a foreign news agency. He mentions bullets, but not decapitation.

I have my doubts of the decapitation story. We need to see the video - if it exists - before we make our final judgment.

UPDATE I - May 8, 2006 1:48pm
Two more Iraqi journalists were killed in Iraq today:

Two Iraqi journalists were found dead south of Baghdad today a day after they were stopped by men wearing police uniforms, the manager of their television station said.

The bodies of Laith al-Dulaimi and Muazaz Ahmed were discovered at midday along a main road near their hometown of Madain, about 12 miles south-east of the capital, said Abdul-Karim al-Mehdawi, general manager of Al-Nahrain TV, a private station.

He quoted witnesses as saying the pair were driving to Madain yesterday when they were stopped on the highway by men wearing police uniforms who took them away.


And we still don't know the fate of Iraqi journalist Reem Zeid and her colleague Marwan Khazaal of Iraqi TV station Sumariya TV. They were kidnapped on Feb. 1, 2006.

UPDATE II - May 8, 2006 4:29pm
I was correct in saying the video was a hoax. Jawa Report has the complete details. confirms the video is a hoax. The video is of a Nepalese man that was beheaded in Iraq in 2004.

UPDATE III - May 28, 2006 4:29pm
Hala Jaber apologized for the hoax video:

I was mistaken. It was a hoax, and I apologise to her family for the pain I have caused them and to the many readers who were distressed by what I wrote.

The video was not of Atwar but of a Nepalese male hostage decapitated two years ago. How could I have got it wrong?


Hala could have checked her facts before she wrote the original article. Just like the bloggers did.

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