Photo editor May Naji during an embed with U.S. troops in Iraq.

When I moved to Singapore, I thought I would escape the war and try to forget everything that reminded me of it.

IRAQ/SCHOOLBut watching “The Hurt Locker,” I flashed back to all the sad and terrifying memories of violence and atrocities during that time in Iraq. The movie was about an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, but it really highlighted what goes on in Iraq every day – what Iraqis and the U.S. military experience every day. I think that’s what made the movie so popular. People want to understand life in Iraq.

Even as an Iraqi who lived there and witnessed the war, it’s sometimes hard to describe — what happened, what we saw. The visions are in my mind, but it’s beyond the imagination of people who live in peaceful countries and never witness war. The movie’s most graphic images (planting explosives inside the body of an Iraqi boy; the civilian with a time-bomb strapped to his chest) were just some of the horrific things that happened in Iraq.

When I joined Reuters in Baghdad in 2006 to work as a photo-editor, it was the peak of the sectarian violence and bombings. We had to keep our work secret. Only my family members knew where I was working. I had to change my route from home to work frequently to make sure I wasn’t noticed by insurgents, who targeted anyone who worked for a foreign company. The bombings happened everywhere and the bombers targeted everyone. They did not distinguish between military and civilians, men, women or children.


The pictures that I used to edit from Iraq were part of my life, not just news photos. I was part of that story. The people who were killed or injured could have been my relatives, friends and neighbors or myself.