That Algerian woman war reporter in Iraq
Samira Mouaki in her olive green hijab and with her GoPro camera. Photograph: (Facebook)
Algerian war reporter Samira Mouaki was grievously hurt while covering the fight against the Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul.
An Islamic State (IS) sniper shot her in the head.
Samira was shot in the head by an Islamic State sniper. She was rushed to hospital in Baghdad. The doctors there say she is stable but it is still not certain how much of a recovery she will make
Samira was rushed to a hospital in Baghdad, from where the latest reports say she is out of danger but that it is still not certain how much of a recovery she will make.
Tal Afar is en route to Syria and the Shiite paramilitary umbrella organisation the Al-Hashd Al-Shabi is fighting the IS there.
Taking back the city from the IS means cutting off the last chance they have to flee Mosul.
I had met Samira, on a sunny but chilly November dawn, while I was in Iraq.
I was with two colleagues outside the Iraqi Army's 9th armoured division base, not far from Mosul. We were waiting for somebody to wake up and give us permission to visit the recently liberated ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, a major archaeological site that the IS had laid waste to a few months earlier.
We were looking at this funny-looking digging machine that the IS had used to dig underground tunnels in Nimrud, when suddenly Samira popped up and greeted us.
I did not immediately realise that this small, energetic Algerian woman, wearing an olive green hijab and a Go-Pro camera holder on her jacket, was a journalist.
We got chatting.
I saw no civilian car and so asked her how she had got there. She told us she had been sleeping on the base for a few days, to be able to follow operations more closely.
I have to say I was surprised.
Probably because of my "western biases" -- which I always think I have erased but which seem ready to bounce back into action whenever I am not paying attention -- meeting an Algerian woman, alone, on a military base, covering the most advanced frontline in Iraq, had an effect on me.
I remember thinking: "How the hell does a woman manage to sleep alone on a base full of Iraqi soldiers, all of them men?"
Well, she did and I immediately regretted my thought. If I was able to roam around Iraq alone, how on earth did I dare think a woman, just because she is a woman, could not do it?
When they say destroying gender biases is a process which starts primarily with ourselves, they are absolutely correct. When they further say that the major problem lies on the men's side, they are again correct.
I looked at Samira and immediately felt an enormous respect for her courage.
She was on the field, no SUV, no expensive camera. She was just there, doing her job without making a fuss.
I remember we spoke about her interest in Al-Hashd Al-Shabi and how, according to her, presenting the conflict through a sectarian lens was counterproductive and wrong. I did not entirely agree with her and we debated the point or at least tried to, in broken French from our side while she of course spoke the language perfectly.
After some ten minutes, an Iraqi officer came, his fatigues a little messy because of his sudden and early awakening.
He lit a cigarette and invited us to have tea and dates while waiting for the formalities.
We said goodbye to Samira and followed the officer.
Samira's condition reminds us once again how dangerous it is to be a war reporter, and that safety must always come first.
Journalists who report on conflicts are highly exposed to risk. Covering the Mosul offensive is especially dangerous because it is made up mostly of unconventional guerrilla warfare fought inside cities, with the enemy using ambushes and suicide attacks.
Samira obviously does know what transpired in my mind after I met her, nor perhaps does she imagine how many times I have spoken about her with many colleagues and friends.
I had often thought of getting in touch with her again, maybe even writing something about her experience, something which could have helped dismantle the damaging, superficial and unfortunately common cliché of the Arab woman. Too many people too many times consider Arab women a single category of oppressed individuals subjected alternatively to men and religion whereas, exactly as it is for men, theirs is a composite and diverse universe with countless experiences of freedom and suffering, satisfaction and frustration.
I wish I was writing about her under any other circumstance but this one. I hope she gets well soon.