Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, August 03, 2005

errible news just emanated from my television set. Steven Vincent, author of one of my favourite weblogs, In the Red Zone, has been found murdered in Basra today.

Steven had made several trips as a freelance writer to Iraq, working out in the country and avoiding the protected Baghdad "Green Zone" where most international journalists keep themselves. He had been doing a lot of writing from Basra area in recent months, and had his writing published in Christian Science Monitor and New York Times. He lived and breathed and searched for the real Iraqi stories always "In the Red Zone" -- also the title of his book.

I had just got caught up with Steven's latest few missives on his blog, just yesterday before settling into my all night writing session posted this morning. His site was always an informative read on the situation, with lots of insight offered by way of encounters and interviews with local personalities -- politicians, civil servants, religious figures, port managers and the like. Always prominent in his stories was his companion, guide and translator -- a young Shia Muslim woman who sounded like one of the hipper members of that community. In the news stories reporting on his death, his translator was said to have been abducted together with him last night, and was reportedly seriously wounded herself. Steven never referred to her by name, but protected her identity by simply calling her "Layla" on his blog.

In the Red Zone was the first weblog written by a non-Iraqi that I included in the "Iraqi Blogs" section of my sidebar, because I felt that's where he belonged. I linked to his writing from time to time, and remember warning readers that no matter what your stance on the Iraq issue, prepare to have your preconceptions altered. Steven was no partisan on one side or the other. He was after the real story outside the Green Zone.

Steven was also the first widely read blog writer who put Agam's Gecko on his blog roll, something I did not expect and did not ask for. I hate it when some folks beg for links, something I've never done and will never do. I hadn't communicated with him, but Steven evidently knew I'd written about him and pointed readers to his articles, and he put us on his list. It felt like an honour to see our name on his page.

Go well, Steven. I for one will surely miss you.

Damn. Just, damn.

UPDATE: Please read Arthur Chrenkoff's wonderful reminiscence about his friend, with much insight into the kind of man he was. Chrenk had done a blog interview last year with Steven, and Steven had done a guest post a few months back on Chrenkoff's site. Of Steven's book (full title In the Red Zone: A Journey into the Soul of Iraq), Arthur writes that it is "a wonderful work, not uncritical of both the liberated and the liberators, but nevertheless infused with deep sympathy for the long suffering of the Iraqi people, as well as love of freedom, and hope for a better future."

More thoughts from PoliPundit.

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