When Ali Arkady embedded with Iraq’s Emergency Response Division (ERD) during the advance on Mosul in the winter, he initially viewed the members of this elite security force as “liberators, not destroyers.” But as he spent time with the ERD, he witnessed scenes of torture, rape and targeted killings – and Arkady felt compelled to share these harrowing images with the world.
“Things now are worse,” Arkady wrote in a recent essay, “much worse than what I expected or had been able to imagine: torturing, raping, and murdering people for the slightest, vague suspicions, or even without suspicions at all.”
As a photographer with the elite photo collective VII, Arkady has worked with many of the leading news organizations in the US, Europe and the Middle East. He has also served as mentor for a number of Yazidi girls who fled ISIS capture, and who are interested in becoming photographers themselves.
After his story ran on ABC News, and in the Toronto Star and Der Spiegel, Iraqi authorities launched an investigation about the abuse allegations. Arkady says he has received threats as a result of his reporting, and fearing for their safety, he and his family have gone into hiding.
The Global Reporting Centre has offered Arkadi the 2017-18 Global Journalist in Residence, which he could carry out in an undisclosed location. This new program was established to help prominent reporters develop ambitious projects, and the GRC is actively fundraising to support Arkady in his efforts to continue reporting on the challenges of bringing peace to Iraq.
Peter Klein, Executive Director of the GRC and a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, said he and Arkady are exploring the possibility of producing a documentary film based on Arkady’s years of reporting in Iraq. “And, more importantly, we want to give Ali and his family a respite from the violence and chaos in their country – an opportunity to recuperate, reflect on what he has been through and continue to produce valuable journalism.”
Last year Mohammed Fahmy served as the inaugural Global Journalist in Residence, after he was released from prison in Egypt. The former Al Jazeera English bureau chief in Cairo had been arrested on terrorism-related charges, and his detention became a global cause for press freedom and safety. During his time at the Global Reporting Centre, Fahmy gave dozens of lectures to UBC students and to the wider public, with speeches at prominent forums throughout Canada, the US, Europe and the Middle East. His visit was made possible with funds from the Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, the Vancouver Institute, Green College and the UBC Graduate School of Journalism.
“I have used my time at the GRC to reflect on my experiences, share my thoughts about the state of global journalism and advocate for stronger protection for reporters working in the most dangerous places on Earth,” Fahmy wrote in an essay summing up his time at the centre. He also spent part of that time co-writing The Marriott Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo’s Scorpion Prison to Freedom, a book about his experience and his efforts to foster press freedom, and he participated in a documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker and GRC collaborator David Paperny.