He worked in Jerusalem for a year and a half for one Palestinian newspaper. Ayad notes, “I
went there as a tourist after Athens (Ohio and Washington). Al-Fajr, Arafat’s English weekly
– and then at the same time I worked with two or three Israeli groups, all anti-Zionist – they
are affiliated with Palestinian organizations – the PFLP and the DFLP; and I also worked
with the Palestinian Media and Communications Center, which belonged to the Communist
Party.” Admittedly, it was not freelance. He reveals, “No, I was employed with the
Palestinian newspaper and the two Israeli groups. I was doing some translation work. It
helps being bilingual – English and Arabic.
Freelance Is Difficult to Define: I had Three Part-time Jobs
Ayad left Jerusalem in January 1991 (a few days before the U.N. deadline for Saddam to
withdraw from Kuwait) and moved to London, where he later started working with Kanan.
He notes, “Kanan – who was an architect and writer – I met in Jerusalem in October ’90. I
later helped him with his book ‘ Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab
World’ – that came out in ’93 (W.W. Norton). A great book. He had a friend there [in
Jerusalem] with whom he went to school at MIT – Emmanuel Farjoun was his best friend –
and one of the top theoretical mathematicians in the world. Kanan was an architect writing
a book on Arab cities, and he thought he was the only Iraqi there. I met Kanan at
Emmanuel’s place. We spent a lot of time together. What I didn’t know is that Kanan had
previously written a book called ‘Republic of Fear,’ that he wrote under a pseudonym about
Iraq. He hadn’t disclosed his identity. After Saddam had invaded Kuwait, he came out
with the fact that he had written ‘Republic of Fear.’ In ’91, I was doing my tour in America
– Boston, New York, Washington, Cleveland, and doing anti-war speaking. I spoke with
Kanan, and he said something good can come out of it. Later, after the Iraqi uprising
against Saddam (in March of ’91), Kanan asked me to help him on a new book.” Although
paid a monthly salary with Kanan, Ayad also started freelance and notes, “The first thing I
wrote was for a Jewish Socialist magazine through Teresa (girlfriend). We were big leftists.”
Attributes His Freelance Career to The Luck of the Iraqi
Ayad Rahim discusses his path to freelance and it jogs his memory. “That reminds me.
There’s a group of freelance journalists in Cleveland. They asked me how did you get
published in ‘The Wall Street Journal.’ I said the first thing is you become Iraqi (LAUGHS).
I guess it’s sort of luck that I was born into an Iraqi family.” Although Ayad moved to the
United States at the age of nine, he is steeped in both cultures. He adds, “It just so
happens that Iraq has been center-stage for twenty years, and I have lived the life – and
also studied Iraq for all these years. So I was working with Kanan, assisting on the book.