• SCARY QUESTIONS: Interviewing people in Kirkuk has been an enormous challenge for the Monitor's Ilene Prusher. After living under the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein for so long, it is difficult for people to grasp the idea of free speech or the role of independent media. She went to the home of Natham Arif, an ethnic Turkmen killed the night the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk fell (page 7). "The home was full of people consoling them on his death, and a family member said they would have been terrified to speak to me only day ago. 'Among the 15 people in this room,' one man told me, 'at least five of them would have been spies for Saddam.'
"At another house, people were afraid to give me their names," says Ilene. "And when I asked them how they felt about the current situation, the family patriarch replied: 'We are afraid of this question. Frankly, we are afraid of you.' They thought I might be a spy for Saddam, or someone else. I looked at them and pointed to myself with a surprised face, as if to say, 'Little ol' me?' We all laughed. It was the best response I could come up with."
• IT'S A GIRL! The Monitor's Scott Peterson had left Baghdad just before the US bombing began last month in order to attend the birth of his fourth child. When he returned Friday, one of his first stops was to visit the family of Karima Selman Methboub to see how they had survived the war (page 1). All were well, and the family - especially the Methboub daughters - were tickled to find out that Scott's baby daughter's middle name is Samarra, after the ancient Iraqi city. When they saw Scott's photographs of little Natasha Jade Samarra Peterson, they rushed to a back room and found three tiny baby dresses which were hand-me-downs from the Methboub sisters. "I was so touched," Scott says. Samarra will be 12 (days) today. "She's a little muffin," he says.
David Clark Scott