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Behind the firing line

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Television Winner of the Australian Young Journalist of the Year Award and United Nations Media Peace Prize, Yalda Hakim’s three-part series on Iraq will go on air soon

She may have fled from war-torn Afghanistan as a child, but it hasn’t stopped her from going back to other conflict prone zones including Afghanistan, South Sudan and Libya, unearthing and relating the stories of the people who live there. Yalda Hakim chooses to court danger over and over again, because she knows the importance of witnessing “tragedies as they happened and history as it was unfolding”. This young woman, winner of the Australian Young Journalist of the Year Award and United Nations Media Peace Prize for Best Australian Television News, will soon be making her on-screen debut on BBC World News presenting a three-part series titled, ‘Iraq: Ten Years On ’.

In an e-mail interview she talks about her life, her dreams and the experiences that have made her what she is today.

Your father smuggled you out of Kabul during the Russian invasion. Tell us a little about your early years.

My family fled the Russian invasion on horseback to Pakistan when I was six months old. I was too young to remember anything of our lives prior to settling in Australia. Before I was born, my father travelled to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia to study architecture. When he returned to Kabul, he was conscripted into the army. He could see the country was heading to war. Once I was born, he decided to flee the country with his young family.

Describe some of the highlights of your career

I’ve been fortunate enough to to meet incredible people around the world and gain insight into their lives, whether it’s a gangster in Chicago’s southside, a world leader or a celebrity.

In March 2012, I became the first western journalist to visit one of the villages in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, where Staff Sgt Robert Bales, a soldier from the United States (U.S.) is alleged to have shot and killed Afghan civilians. My report ‘Anatomy of a Massacre’ traced the steps of the rogue soldier to help shed new light on the events of that night. It made headlines around the world, particularly in the U.S. One of the most memorable interviews I did was about female infanticide in Madurai. There I met a woman who had been forced by her husband’s family to kill two of her newborn children because they were girls. She took me to the well where one of her daughters was dumped. I’ll never forget the anguish and suffering she felt as she told me her story.

PREETI ZACHARIAH

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