Nearly three years after gunman affiliated with al-Qaedaleft him for dead on a Baghdad street, Iraqi
state television cameraman Jehad Ali arrived
in the United States for medical treatment to help rebuild his bullet-shattered
He looked a bit dazed as he walked into my office. Was it
the journey? After all, this was the first time Jehad had been in the West. Was
it apprehension about the medical examinations and possible complicated surgery
that lay ahead? No. It was the lights of Manhattan.
Since he first stepped off the plane from Jordan
and drove at night into New York City,
Jehad had been out on the town playing tourist. He said he felt like a kid.
Days after his arrival he was still awestruck by the JumboTrons in Times Square and the gadget-filled windows of the electronic
stores. In our conversations during the week he spent in New
York before flying off to a clinic in Los Angeles, Jehad never lost that boyish look
of wonder. No matter that he doesn't speak a word or English. His smile said it
all--"I've made it."
Jehad could have flown straight to California to see the doctors who had
offered him pro bono services. But the 27-year-old Al-Iraqiya employee wanted
to stop over to personally thank all of the CPJ staff who had worked on his
behalf. Jehad's plight had touched CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, who met
him in Iraq.
She was the one who found the doctor in California
and started raising money to bring him to the United States. When she soon
discovered that she would need help with the logistics of such an enterprise,
she turned to CPJ.
The road ahead for Jehad will not be easy. He wants to be
able to run around again with a heavy professional video camera. But one of the
11 bullets that struck him back in December 2005 took out a 1.2-inch (3 cm) piece
of his femur. The wound has healed and he can walk, albeit with a limp. He will
not regain his former mobility without complex surgery.
But future problems were not on his mind the day he sat down
for lunch with CPJ and Lara Logan and her staff. He spoke of his past triumph
and present gratitude. He had conquered the odds merely by surviving and
getting out of Iraq.
And now he could not stop thanking people. He asked Lara Logan how he could
ever thank her for her generosity. "By learning English," she replied. Jehad
acknowledged with a grin that was a debt that would take some time to repay.
And so, after a week in New York, Jehad came to say goodbye before
flying off to see whether after three years, surgery could still help him. How
was he feeling?
"I'm not a bit afraid. This after all, is what I have always
wanted to do, see a doctor."
And what did he want to do after that?
"I want to meet an American girl and get married."
Robert Mahoney is CPJ’s deputy director. He writes and speaks on press freedom, and has led CPJ missions to global hot spots from Iraq to Sri Lanka. He worked as a reporter, bureau chief and editor for Reuters around the world. Follow him on Twitter @RobertMMahoney.
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