Journalist Lorraine Mallinder has travelled all over the world reporting on stories as diverseunterschiedlichdiverse as Hungarian rap music, civil warBürgerkriegcivil war in Cameroon and making maple syrupAhornsirupmaple syrup in Canada. Recently, she travelled to Iraq to research topics for the BBC and The Irish Times. While there, Lorraine recorded her experiences for Spotlight in the form of a logProtokolllog.
Here you can listen to all six entries using the audio players below. Underneath each entry, you can open the transcript and will find glossed words to help you understand the text.
Click here to open the transcript
Day one in the city of Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq
Hello, and welcome to the first instalmenterste Folgefirst instalment of my reporting log. So, I got here yesterday and I’m still getting acclimatized. It’s been in the mid-40s all day, a very dry heat. And, I have to say, looking out my hotel window right now, the functional concreteBetonconcrete buildings that are typical in this part of the world all look kind of parchedausgedörrt, staubtrockenparched. There’s a guy outside selling rows of chickens roasting on a multi-layered spithier: Bratspießspit, the flames glowing orange – yet he seems as cool as a cool as a cucumbervöllig ungerührt, seelenruhigcucumber!
The guy in the hotel lobby said that a couple of weeks back, it was in the 50s. So, Iraq, Kurdistan, like a lot of countries we’ve been seeing in the news, is having a very long, hot summer. There’s a real water shortage here, too, and lots of power cut (UK)Stromausfall, Stromabschaltungpower cuts owing to sth.aufgrund von etw.owing to the intense heat.
So, what have I been up to today? It’s mainly been a day of research, calling contacts, drinking lots of tea in the hotel lobby. There’s this stereotype of the foreign reporter who goes to cover conflicts in faraway places, but never really to venturewagen, sich trauenventures beyond the hotel lobby, which does come to mind here. But seriously, I’ve to bump into sb.jmdm. zufällig begegnenbumped into some really interesting characters in the lobby of this particular hotel, who’ve given me some really invaluable tips for stories.
Like last year, for example. I was here in February, planning a trip to Mosul, which is Iraq’s second-largest city. Islamic State were here between 2014 and 2017. And I wanted to go and see how people were dealing with the aftermathFolgenaftermath. It was a fairly risky trip, partly because of all the militias in the city. But I’d organized everything beforehand with an NGO – that’s a group doing aid work there – who were going to get me in the city and put me up in their safe house. However, on the day before the big trip, they to pull outeinen Rückzieher machenpulled out, leaving me in the to leave sb. in the lurchjmdn. im Regen stehen lassenlurch. I was kind of gutted (UK, ifml.)sehr enttäuschtgutted because it had [basically] been the main purpose of the visit. However, later that day, I bumped into someone in the hotel lobby, the famous hotel lobby: an Iraqi American businessman who was setting up a business in Mosul and offered to get me in.
“You’re gonna love it, Loreen,” he kept saying to me, as if we were going on a trip to Disneyland.
It turned out to be a great trip, producing some stories for the BBC and The Irish Times.
Anyway, that was back in February last year. And I haven’t been anywhere since. Because, well, like everyone else, I’ve been in lockdown land. So, this is my first foreign reporting trip in what feels like ages. I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel some trepidationBeklemmung, Angsttrepidation. I feel a little bit out of practice.
There’s a definite knackTalent, Fertigkeit, Trickknack to foreign reporting. You arrive in a faraway place and you have to find your to find one’s bearingssich zurechtfindenbearings very quickly. Your eyes need to be wide open. You’re gathering a lot of information in a very short period of time. Communication is sometimes an issue. In Mosul, I’d found a very eruditegebildeterudite university professor whose translations had a real sense of nuance. Generally, with interpreterDolmetscher(in)interpreters, I to tone downabschwächentone down my Scottish accent and often end up repeating questions in different ways to get to the heart of the matter.
I’ve got my eye on a few areas that I want to write about while I’m here. I’ve already pitched some stories – a “pitch” is when you contact a publication with proposals for story ideas.
I want to write about the Yazidi women who were to enslaveversklavenenslaved by Islamic State. The Yazidis are a religious minority in northern Iraq who’ve been to houndjagenhounded and to persecuteverfolgenpersecuted for centuries. Over 6,000 Yazidi women were taken to take sb. captivejmdn. gefangen nehmencaptive by Islamic State, and around half that number are [still] to be unaccounted forvermisst werdenunaccounted for.
It’s actually thought that many are imprisoned along with Islamic State members in a prison camp in Syria – the victims imprisoned with their captor Geiselnehmer(in)captors. So, I definitely want to follow that up.
Other than that, I have a couple of political stories. One on the clan rivalries in Kurdistan – that’s quite a dramatic story, with a sort of Game of Thrones dimension.
There are also elections coming up in Iraq in October, which will be hugely interesting – not least because of all the anti-corruption protests that kicked off in 2019, [when] a lot of young people went out on the streets. The elections are definitely a major part of the backdropHintergrundbackdrop to this visit.
My time here is limited, just over a week. I have a lot to cover.
So, the clock is ticking! I’d better get on with it!
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Hello and welcome to the second instalmentFolge, Fortsetzunginstalment of my reporting log. Day two in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. So, it’s been a busy second day. I woke up to find a couple of my pitchVerkaufsgespräch, Angebotpitches had been accepted, so I definitelyauf jeden Falldefinitely will be writing the stories about the Yazidi woman and the ruling clans. Good to have some direction now. Once you get answers to your pitches, things start taking shape because you know what the focus of the trip will be. There’s another story with a Turkish link that I haven’t sold yet, but which I’ll be searching on the side perhaps with a view to doing a radio piece. After a massive breakfast of fruit, eggs and bread with coffee, I to venture(sich) wagenventured out into the chaos of the mid-morning traffic, passed the traders selling fruit from cartWagen, Karrencarts and the old men drinking tea on benches. I had the good sense to to duckschnell verschwindenduck straight into the first clothes shop I passed for a cap. I’ve suffered sunstrokeSonnenstichsunstroke before while out reporting in Cameroon in 2019 and I definitely don’t want to repeat that experience. I then ducked into a cafe – a nice little place selling cappuccinos and espressos with some people sitting outside in the shade of the awningSonnendach, Markiseawning. I was to be keen to do sth.darauf aus sein, etw. zu tunkeen to start to line up sth.etw. orgnisierenlining up my interviews as soon as possible. At this stage, once you’ve had a firm response to pitches, it’s important to start organizing how the following days will go so you’re not wasting valuable time later. Anyway, while I was to type awaydrauflos tippentyping away furiouslywie wildfuriously, one of the men sitting nearby told me he’d already paid for my coffee. Kurdish people are hospitablegastfreundlichhospitable in that way. I’ve lost count of the number of times this has happened, with coffees, teas and pomegranateGranatapfelpomegranate juices. I always try to offer back, but people will have none of it. I really can’t imagine the same thing happening the other way around in the UK. I got chatting to the guy, Ahmed, and his palFreundpals. One of them was a PE (physical education) teacherSportlehrer(in)PE teacher, another a blacksmithSchmiedblacksmith, another a local singer. He looked like an Iraqi version of 1970s Elvis: jet blacktiefschwarzjet black hair to slickglättenslicked back with greaseFett; hier: Pomade, Haargelgrease. They were all talking about the ubiquitousallgegenwärtigubiquitous coronavirus like they all thought it was a myth. The blacksmith said that his job had made him strong enough to fight the virus. “Coronavirus?” he said. “What coronavirus? I’m so strong that I’ll kill the coronavirus.”
I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been talking to a friend here, and he told me that a lot of people aren’t really taking it seriously. Masks and sanitizerDesinfektionsmittelsanitizer definitely don’t seem to be a thing here, and cases are on the rise. The conversation served as a reminder that this isn’t the usual reporting trip. I’ve come here on the hunt for stories but I’ll have to be careful how I organize things.
I to headsich auf den Weg machenheaded to the other side of the city by taxi to see my friends at Mr. Erbil – a group of very stylish men who set up their own bespoke tailoringMaßschneidereibespoke tailoring service a few years ago when Islamic State were at the city limits. I guess you could describe Mr. Erbil as a sort of gentleman’s club celebrating style and culture, basically the antithesis of Islamic State. I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind that I’d like to do something on culture, perhaps on Iraqi music. I to hang out (ifml.)herumhängenhung out with the lovely Basil, who’s currently running Mr. Erbil, and explain the type of music I was looking for – something really out there, the weirder the better. Perhaps some modern twist on traditional music. Though as Basil more or less explained to me, weirdsonderbar, schrägweird in Kurdistan means getting away from the traditional sounds and doing stuff that sounds totally Western. This is the sort of thing that could take nights of research hanging out in local clubs, maybe something for corona-free times in the hopefully not too distant future. The pandemic has had a massive impactAuswirkungenimpact on Basil and his friends at Mr. Erbil. They used to be based in this massive space with a shop floor showing their designs, a barber shop and a really cool cafe, but they’ve had to to downsizeverkleinern, reduzierendownsize drastically and are now in a much smaller space. I really admire Basil’s spirit. No government support or grantfinanzielle Unterstützunggrants available here. You’ve got to make it work on your own. You have to be a hero every single day of the week without anyone applauding your efforts. I got back to the horrific news of the fall of Kabul on the big screen in the lobby. Everyone is to be transfixedwie gelähmt seintransfixed and terrified. The US, which played a big role in the fall of Islamic State, is always saying how to be committed to sth.sich etw. verpflichtet fühlencommitted it is to Iraq and has a military base in Erbil. But in Afghanistan we’ve seen how quickly things can change. Thanks for to lend sb. an earjmdm. zuhörenlending an ear and listen out for my next report. Bye!
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Hello and welcome to the third instalmentFolgeinstalment of my reporting log. Day 3 in Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. You may be wondering why I keep specifying that we’re in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. As a Scot, I’m especially sensitiveempfindlichsensitive to the Kurdish sense of pride in their identity, which is different to the rest of Iraq. There was a referendum here in 2017 around the time Islamic State were defeated in Iraq. The Peshmerga – the name for the Kurdish military forces, which translates as “those who face death” – managed to keep Islamic State out of Kurdistan, insuring it remained a havenZufluchtsorthaven of relative stability amidstinmittenamidst the chaos. Anyway, tell a Kurd that you’re in Iraq here, and you’re likely to be met with a death starevernichtender Blickdeath stare. Just as you would be if you told a Scot that Edinburgh is in Britain, if you get what I mean. It’s early evening and the sun is going down, to castwerfencasting its last glow of peachypfirsichfarbenpeachy orange over the city. I love the magic hour here, the hazydiesighazy air growing darker as the call to prayer sounds from mosqueMoscheemosques in different parts of the city. I’ve been making calls again, reaching out for some key interviews with the Kurdish guy (ifml.)Kerl, Typguy who made a documentaryDokumentarfilmdocumentary about the Yazidi women, and with a politician who has some inside knowledge on the clan politics story. I’ve also been reaching out to analysts for some background briefingInformationbriefings. All this is done over the phone and the interviews may well end up being over the phone too because of the corona situation. I to wind up (ifml.)es schaffen, soweit kommenwound up speaking to a specialist in local militias who knows every single militia group in Iraq and beyond. no mean feateine beachtliche LeistungNo mean feat because this is a vastriesig, gewaltigvast alphabet soup of hard-to-remember acronyms with different aims. It’s a very niche issueNischenthemaniche issue that often goes unreported because of its complexity. We have a good old chinwag (UK ifml.)Schwätzchenchinwag, which to spill overüberschwappenspills over into yep (ifml.)ja, ja genauyep, you guessed it, coronavirus. “The world is totally surreal right now,” he says, “like a Dali painting.” I can’t use that wonderful quote in my articles, but I can definitelyauf jeden Fall, ganz bestimmtdefinitely use it here. I met up with my fixer and good palFreundpal, Yaz. He to pop into (ifml.)vorbeikommenpopped into the hotel. A fixer is a local person, often a journalist, who guides foreign journalists in their search for stories. It’s important to find a good fixer. Even if you’re a freelancerFreiberufler(in)freelancer on a restricted budget, you want to make sure you put aside the money to pay your fixer properly because these are the guys who take risks for you and who ensure your safety. Yaz is a Syrian Kurd who studied English literature in Damascus. He fled Baschar al-Assad’s regime some years ago. It’s been tough for him, raising his child and working in a restaurant – the only work he can get here outside the odd bitdas bisschenodd bit of fixing for foreign journalists. “Don’t worry. I’ll get everything organized tomorrow,” he said, referring to interviews I needed for the Yazidi women story. He’d gone out for his coronavirus vaccinationImpfungvaccination that day and had been shouted at by the boss. It pains me to hear that this immensely talented guy is being treated in this way. “Don’t worry about it too much if you’re working,” I said. “I’ll get it done!” he insisted, “and I’ll come and see you Thursday straight after work.” Later in the afternoon, I went to a really posh (ifml.)nobel, edelposh cafe to meet a military contact. There were a lot of Westerners there. They sell these amazing cakes worthy of sth.etw. würdigworthy of any patisserie in London. The only reminder that we were, in fact, in Kurdistan was the constant power cutStromausfallpower cuts. We were sitting right at the back, and one minute we’d be chatting away quite the thing under the bright spots, the next we’d be to plungestürzenplunged into semi-darknessHalbdunkelsemi-darkness. It’s amazing how quickly the lack ofFehlen vonlack of air conditioning can be felt. My contact told me the cuts could be owing to the heat or lack of fuel for the power stationElektrizitätswerkpower stations, but sometimes there were terrorist attacks on electricity lines too. It’s really late now, and a couple of helicopters from the nearby American airbaseLuftwaffenstützpunktairbase are circling in the sky. They’re out every night going round and round. I’m ready for bed now. I’m now officially halfway through the trip and I’ve got to pack in a lot of stuff tomorrow. to sign outsich abmeldenSigning out now. Be sure to to tune in(Radio, TV) einschalten, dabei seintune in for more of my reporting log. Bye!
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Am I imagining things? Is it a bit cooler today? At last, some respiteNachlassen, Atempauserespite, even if it’s just a couple of degrees. There’s a clipVideoclip, Kurzfilmclip of an old guy in Erbil that’s to go viralsich rasant, viral verbreitengone viral. He’s stood there in the dusty street, wearing what appears to be a hat made of cardboardPappecardboard. “We haven’t had water for a long time, but for a week we’ve had no water at all,” he says. “No water, no fuel, no salary, no electricity, no bread!”
And all the while, the political intrigues continue at the top. Today, I really got to grips with the political clan story, working from the excellent briefingInformationbriefing I was given yesterday. Sometimes, it happens that way – you get the interviews in an order that makes sense, enabling you to build from a good foundation. It’s a bit trickykniffligtricky, this story. Which is why it’s important to speak to people who have a to have a birds-eye viewetw. aus der Vogelperspektive betrachtenbirds-eye view of the situation.
I managed to to bag sth.etw. eintüten, einsacken; hier: kriegenbag a couple of really soughtafterbegehrt, dringend nötigsought-after interviews over the phone, which gave me more inside information. I have a habit of over-researching, which I have to watch. I had this fixerVermittler(in), Kontaktpersonfixer in Guinea Bissau, West Africa who called me “ten thousand questions Lorraine”. When I start getting into a story, I want to know absolutely everything. This is sometimes not such a good thing, especially as a freelancerFreiberufler(in)freelancer, as you wind up spending too long on stories, which then work out at a dismalerbärmlich, armseligdismal hourly rateStundensatzhourly rate.
I think I must have spent about three hours to hole up (ifml.)sich verkriechenholed up in my room doing interviews. In the afternoon, I needed a break from it all, so I decided to go out for some food. Though I almost lost my appetite on the way to the restaurant, as I passed this guy who was literallyim wahrsten Sinne des Wortesliterally to skinhäutenskinning a goatZiegegoat’s head hanging from a hook in a tree. You could see the floppy earSchlappohrfloppy ears coming away as he to sliceschneidensliced back. Then he to slingschleudern, werfenslung the skinned head – all white and pink – on top of a few other heads piled up in a pink bucket on the pavementGehsteigpavement. Proper goreBlut; hier: Gemetzelgore.
“What are you going to do with that?” I asked.
“Make soup,” he said, smiling at my disgustedangeekeltdisgusted face. “Do you eat this?” he asked.
Well, as the ultimate hypocriticalscheinheilighypocritical carnivoreFleischesser(in)carnivore who buys her meat all nicely packaged from the supermarket, I couldn’t lie. “Yeah, but I’m just not used to seeing my meat like … this,” I said.
It turned out he’d come all the way from the Punjab in India. He’d had to leave home to find work. And this was the work he’d found. Skinning goats’ heads in the scorchingsengendscorching heat. He told me he was desperate to go home again and was saving up enough money for his fareFahrgeldfare. He looked really young, maybe in his early twenties. I wished him good luck.
I suddenly wasn’t feeling so hungry. When I eventuallyschließlich, irgendwanneventually made it to a decentannehmbardecent-looking eateryLokal, Restauranteatery, a very narrow space with big pots of food bubbling away and a few stoolHockerstools around a FormicaResopalFormica table, I to opt for sth.sich für etw. entscheidenopted for the veggie option. Proper falafels on the lovely flat bread they make on every street corner in this part of the world. I tried not to think of the goats’ heads as I to munch ifml.mampfenmunched.
I to strollschlendern, spazierenstrolled back to the hotel, taking in the busy streets, with their sun-bleachedvon der Sonne ausgeblichensun-bleached shop signs that look like they date back decades. The snazzy (ifml.)schicksnazzier shops tend to sell alcohol. Some of these are actually named after the drinks – Chivas, Johnny Walker, Glenfiddich. Iraq generally is known for its love of whisky. There’s actually a club just down the road called Teachers, like the whisky. But it’s not for your average punter (UK ifml.)Kunde, Kundin, Gastpunter.
You’ll generally find foreign NGO (non government organisation)nichtstaatliche OrganisationNGO workers and rich Kurds there. Erbil is actually known for its wild expatständig im Ausland lebende Personexpat parties, which reached their height when Islamic State were just 60 kilometres down the road.
Before bed, I finally manage to bag that interview with the Kurdish director of the Yazidi documentaryDokumentarfilmdocumentary, a really important part of that story. Which means I’d better watch it before I go to bed. So, I’ll to sign offsich abmeldensign off now. Make sure you catch the next instalmentFolge, Fortsetzunginstalment, bye!
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Hello and welcome to the fifth instalmentFolge, Fortsetzunginstalment of my reporting logProtokolllog. Day five in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. How time is flying.
I started the day a bit bleary eyedübernächtigtbleary eyed. I had to go for a coronavirus test super early, queuing up outside the cast ironGußeisencast iron gates of the clinic at 7.30am, the sun already starting its slow bake.
There was a guy from the hotel there too, who’d been to Mosul the day before to buy a fake corona certificate. Realizing that the dodgyzweifelhaftdodgy handwritten bit of paper probably wouldn’t get past UK airport officials, he was now doing it properly.
As I was giving my passport details at the window, he kept to butt in (ifml.)dazwischenreden, sich einmischenbutting in, ostensiblyangeblichostensibly to offer help, to coughhustencoughing and to splutterstottern, sich verhaspelnspluttering everywhere. This would be the ultimate irony, I thought to myself – catching corona at the clinic. On the way out, I held my hand out under an automatic dispenserSpenderdispenser for some gelhier: Handdesinfektionsgelgel – which didn’t work.
I caught the Yazidi documentaryDokumentarfilmdocumentary last night before bed, constantly to rewindzurückspulenrewinding for the key details. I think it took me double the time to watch. In the documentary, the Kurdish directorRegisseur(in)director goes to the prison camp in Syria where the Yazidi girls are to trapfangen; hier: gefangen haltentrapped, talking to two men who are trying to rescue them.
They send infiltratorEindringlinginfiltrators into the camp, these incredibly brave Yazidi girls who escaped Islamic State captivity. After saving a girl in the in the dead of nightmitten in der Nachtdead of night, they are to chaseverfolgenchased by a car. A proper adrenaline-filled high-speed chase, probably Islamic State militants to alert sb.jmdn. alarmieren, warnenalerted by the women in the camp. It’s edge-of-the-seat (ifml.)wahnsinnig aufregend, spannendedge-of-the-seat stuff. Mainly, it makes you realize that the terrorist threat is far from over.
I spoke to the director mid-morning. I had all sorts of questions about how he set up the whole thing. He said that it took him a while to gain the trust of the rescuers. There were other chases that he didn’t film because he didn’t yet have permission. A lot of the most incredible footageFilmmaterialfootage was captured simply by allowing things to to unfoldsich ergeben, passierenunfold, filming when they happened.
I met up with a key contactwichtigste(r) Ansprechpartner(in)key contact who’d set up some interviews with Yazidi girls and women in the region of Sinjar in northwest Iraq, who’ve recently been freed. There had been some airstrikeLuftangriffairstrikes there in recent days. The women I spoke to told me about the attacks over a very shakywackeligshaky WhatsApp link. That’s before we got onto their stories.
There was one girl, only 11 years old. She was captured by Islamic State when she was 4, with her mum. The two were separated early on and the mum managed to get away and has since moved to Canada.
The little girl was found in Mosul, where she’d ended up in an orphanageWaisenhausorphanage. An aunt was searching for her, armed only with a photo showing a beauty spot on her nose and a scarNarbescar on her foreheadStirnforehead. That’s how they identified her. The little girl is smiling, excited that she might be joining her mum in Canada. It’s a true miracle. You can only wonder how her life might change if she does make it to Canada. I hope to God she makes it there.
all the whiledie ganze Zeit über, währenddessenAll the while, Yaz has been translating for me. He’s very effective and to launch into sth.etw. angreifen, startenlaunches into introductions, getting key details even before we start interviewing, so there’s not too much to beat around the bush (ifml.)um den heißen Brei herumreden, nicht zur Sache kommenbeating around the bush. Then, when we get onto the interviewing, he to liaiseeine Verbindung herstellenliaises smoothly between us. no mean feateine beachtliche LeistungNo mean feat over WhatsApp. I studied interpretingDolmetscheninterpreting at degree levelHochschulabschlussdegree level, so I really to appreciate sth.etw. zu schätzen wissenappreciate his skill.
After doing the interviews, we stopped for tea, absolutely drainedhier: ausgelaugt, erschöpftdrained. We were in a tea house with loud Kurdish music playing and lots of chatter. Yaz must have smoked about 15 cigarettes. My mind was to chew away on sth.an etw. herumkauen; hier: über etw. grübelnchewing away on the Turkish story the whole time, which I’d like to do for radio. The recent airstrikes in Sinjar actually feed into it.
I’ll need to do some intensive research tonight and hammer it tomorrow, so I have enough material to write up on the plane.
So, the day is far from over for me. See you soon for the final instalment. Bye!