IRAQIS DYING TO TELL THE STORY
Khalid Hassan was irrepressible. In the days after Baghdad fell, he would drop by my office with the most positive outlook of anyone I’d ever seen. It was only after I got to know him better that I realized how even more remarkable that was.
After Saddam was toppled, the dream of a better life went horribly wrong for Palestinian-Iraqi families like Khalid’s much sooner than for most Iraqis. Iraqis blamed even Palestinians born here for supporting Saddam while he was in power and drove thousands of them out of their homes. When I met Khalid four years ago, his family had taken shelter in a school. It was a fact that he mentioned in passing with a rueful and still hopeful smile – hopeful that everything would turn out OK.
For a while it did. He got a job he loved with the New York Times, a steady paycheck, moved his parents and sisters into an apartment and delighted in the long black leather jacket and trendy clothes he was able to buy. His father was shot and wounded driving a taxi and his family depended on him more than ever.
On Thursday, Khalid was driving to work in southwest Baghdad when gunmen forced his car off the road and opened fire, according to his employers. He survived the first bullet and called his family to tell them he was OK And then incredibly, a second group of gunmen came back and shot this remarkable 23-year-old with the sweet, rueful smile in the head.
Absorbing that news it felt as if the earth should stop turning for a while. The same way it seems incomprehensible that life rolls on after every sudden death of a friend or colleague or family member that leaves the world you know much sadder and smaller.
Not the only one
Khalid wasn’t the only Iraqi journalist to die last week.