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Remembering Allan: a tribute to Jill Carroll's interpreter

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He had kept a famous music store open in Baghdad until last summer, when conditions made purveying Western CDs too dangerous.

Still needing to support his young and growing family, Allan Enwiya turned full time to interpreting for American reporters, a job that he had dabbled in since 2004. And it was while doing that job with journalist Jill Carroll on a Saturday morning in January that Allan became a victim of an abduction on a Baghdad street, where he was shot and killed.

Allan was one of 82 journalists and media assistants who have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war, according to the international organization Reporters Without Borders. Of that number, 25 were media assistants killed, like Allan, while doing their job.

Often their stories, even their names, are not told. But Allan's story is representative of why Iraqis are willing to take such risks by working with foreigners.

For some it's the chance to break into journalism, to be a part of telling their country's history. But for the majority - and Allan was one of these - it is a means for turning a prized talent, facility with English, into a job and a way to support a family in a difficult economy.

With Allan's death, another small chip of the cosmopolitan and partially Westernized mosaic that was prewar Baghdad was lost. As one Baghdadi blogger who had known the famous "DJ Allan" wrote shortly after the news of the abduction spread, for "those Westernized Iraqis who craved foreign music, [Allan] had very few rivals... He had just about everything from Abba to Marilyn Manson."

Yet as much as he loved music and as comfortable as he felt with Americans and other Westerners, what motivated the young Iraqi Christian with a degree in electrical engineering was his family: his parents, to whom he was an only son, but especially to his wife, a 5-year-old daughter, Mary Ann, and a toddler son, Martin. "For them," he sometimes said, "I'll do what it takes."


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