Atwar Bahjat, RIP

I won't go into the events in Iraq themselves, but this latest escalation of conflict between Sunni and Shia in Iraq is deeply worrying. I can't say I have had much hope for Iraq anyway over recent months (receiving news several times a day of riots and deaths on my mobile phone has that effect), but this is getting into overt civil war territory. One of yesterday's victims was Al Arabiya journalist Atwar Bahjat, and the Times has a nice homage to her:

BahjatatwarTHERE were so many reasons not to kill Atwar Bahjat. She was half Sunni, half Shia, a woman, an Iraqi, 30 years old, a native of Samarra and a renowned journalist for the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news channel.
Yet kill her they did. They shot her to death on a dusty road six miles north of her home town as she reported on the bomb that wrecked Samarra’s sacred Shia shrine on Wednesday.

She died with two colleagues — early victims in a frenzy of revenge killings that has dragged Iraq to the brink of civil war. Being half Shia was not enough to save her. For three years the fragile truce between Iraq’s once-dominant Sunni minority and long-oppressed Shia majority had held in the face of suicide bombs in market places, car bombs outside police stations and corpses found in ditches.

That truce is now at breaking point. Across Baghdad and other cities Shia death squads have been tracking down and butchering Sunnis. Scores of Sunni mosques have been attacked, some of their Imams killed or abducted. The curfew has been extended, and all police and army leave cancelled.

By last night the death toll was nearing 200, and Sunni politicians ended talks on forming a new government with the Shia alliance. The Iraq whose outline was that of Atwar Bahjat’s trademark gold pendant was at risk of sundering.
She is the 11th employee of Al Arabiya to die since the invasion of Iraq, which begs the question of what they're doing in terms of security there.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.