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Reporters on the Job

My Bodyguard : While some foreign journalists working in the southern Iraqi city of Basra operate with an entourage that includes a driver, fixer, interpreter, and armed security guards, correspondent Steven Vincent puts his trust in his lone female interpreter.

"Kidnapping is still a lucrative business. Unlike a year ago, I can't go just anywhere in Basra by myself," he says.

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This is Steven's third reporting trip to Iraq's port city in a little more than a year (page 1). Each time he has relied to varying degrees on the savvy and language skills of a Shiite woman who learned her English at Basra University.

"I consider Layla a colleague and my protector. I dedicated a chapter in my book ["In the Red Zone"; Spence Publishing] to her," he says. But he's bothered by the lack of respect shown by some of the Iraqi men who should know better.

"She called to make an appointment for me to interview a member of one of Iraq's major Shiite religious parties. We had interviewed him a year ago. He said he'd been thinking about her ever since and propositioned her over the phone to marry him.

"This bastion of Muslim propriety and Koranic teachings," says Steven, tried to sweeten the offer by promising her a position in the party's security police. She declined the entire proposal.

Steven is also concerned by the changes he's seen in Layla's views over the past year. It's a transformation that other journalists have noted in other Iraqis, too. "She believes in democracy and women's rights. And a year ago, she was very pro-American. Now, she's anti-American. She wants US troops out of Iraq."

David Clark Scott
World editor


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