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Reporters on the Job

THAT'S NOT THE BOY WE KNEW: When The Monitor's Scott Peterson visited the family of the would-be Kurdish assassin he profiles today (Page 1), Scott assumed that they would want to see a fresh portrait of their son and brother that he had taken while visiting the man in prison. The family had never been to the prison and, until Scott's visit, didn't even know that he was still alive. Scott envisioned taking a picture of the mother holding the image of her son.

"I had the digital portrait of the son up on the screen of my laptop," Scott says. "But I was amazed at their reaction when I asked if they wanted to see it. The response was immediate: 'No way.' "

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The parents had only one portrait of the boy, taken when he was a child. They refused to allow Scott to take a shot of their hands holding the photo. "The mother said: 'Palestinian mothers hold pictures of sons who have died in the intifada, because they are proud. I am not proud of him," Scott says. She then turned to another son and prayed he and his wife would have only girls, so that they would not become assassins.

JUST BE PATIENT: Speaking to people about tragedy can be difficult even in your own language. But communicating such painful experiences across language and culture barriers is even harder. Reporter Nicole Itano found that a good interpreter can make all the difference in speaking with HIV-positive genocide survivors (Page 8), most of whom spoke only Kinyarwan-da. "I had been speaking to one woman for nearly an hour, but she hadn't opened up about how she became HIV-positive. I wanted to ask her directly, but the interpreter suggested we wait, saying it was the Rwandan way to tell a long story and get to the point at the end. He was right."

- Amelia Newcomb

Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot