We now turn to another of Al Jazeera’s most prominent journalists, Ahmed Mansur. He was in Fallujah in April, 2003 during one of the bloodiest assaults by U.S. forces in Iraq. He reported from Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and was brutally beaten while covering the elections in Egypt a few months ago. [includes rush transcript]
- Ahmed Mansur, Al Jazeera correspondent in Fallujah during U.S. siege. He is author of 17 books and is the host of a prominent talk show on Al Jazeera called "Without Borders."
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to another of Al Jazeera’s most prominent journalists, Ahmed Mansur. He was in Fallujah in April of 2004 during one of the bloodiest assaults by U.S. forces in Iraq. He reported from Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. He was brutally beaten while covering the elections in Egypt just months ago. He’s author of 17 books and is the host of a prominent talk show on Al Jazeera called Without Borders. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
AHMED MANSUR: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: It is good to have you with us. People in the United States have not heard very much about Fallujah, either what happened in November of 2004 or before that — April 2004. You are one of the journalists who were inside. What happened?
AHMED MANSUR: A lot of things happened. I think all of the people around the world don’t know, maybe only one percent about this has happened in Fallujah. When I was in Fallujah and Al Jazeera team in April 2004, I hoped that in this time thousands of journalists is there for every street, every house, everywhere to introduce some of the truth or part of the truth to the people around the world. I think I stay one week, but all of the things I did in Fallujah, all of the things I introduced to the world via pictures and reports, maybe one percent only from this things happened there.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you see inside during that week that you were there, and what was the response of the U.S. forces to you reporting from Fallujah?
AHMED MANSUR: When I try enter Fallujah, every road to Fallujah closed. I try from maybe seven roads going to Fallujah. Everything is closed. United States force was closed everything. But when — I lost in hope to go inside Fallujah. But I have a chance. I saw someone come within desert — desert between Fallujah and outside. I asked him: 'Where you come?' He told me, 'I come from Fallujah this way. American forces don't know this way.’ I asked him to take me and my crew to inside. He refused in the first, but he agreed after that. We talked with him a lot of time. He agreed.
Within 20 minutes we become inside Fallujah. It is good chance for us. And we are only our media team inside Fallujah. American forces, you know, don’t allow to anyone to go out or go inside Fallujah, this siege around the city. It was there in Fallujah on this time more than 300,000 people — women — people — this is population of Fallujah inside this. And after two, three days, everything become little — food and petrol, and everything for life become — electric from the streets, and this is — crafts destroy a lot of houses because a lot of people fight against the United States force. Around the city, they destroy everything. Everything was destroyed — houses and a lot of things. Everything were introduced via pictures and report to the people
AMY GOODMAN: Everything you filmed?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. Everything we saw, everything we can — everything — every places we can go. A lot of places we can’t go because this is battle between — this is guerrilla people and United States. In some parts of the city, we can’t go. But every place we can go to this place we have pictures for children, women, old people, and houses destroyed and a lot of injured people and the people killed — everything were introduced by Al Jazeera. But I remember, this is third day for siege, family, 25 person, women, children, old people killed via rocket. The rocket destroyed the house, and all family killed, only one survived We have the picture and introduce it to the world. Everyone saw it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, your —
AHMED MANSUR: But it is only — it is only one case. You can imagine how a lot of people happening this on — more than [inaudible] houses on Fallujah.
AMY GOODMAN: So your images were countering what the U.S. military was saying about only killing insurgents. Your pictures ran counter to that. They told a very different story.
AHMED MANSUR: Yes, I think daily maybe we send from 30 to 50 minutes pictures from a lot of places from Fallujah. I have two cameramen and me. And we can’t go to everywhere, but when some people told us some rocket or tank has destroyed some houses, we try go to this place and take some pictures and send it to Al Jazeera. And this is broadcast to the world. I don’t — some of our cameramen went to some places and have some footage and some photo for this battle between insurgents and American forces. But this plane was destroy a lot of things, and rockets destroy a lot of houses and people.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ahmed Mansur, one of the leading journalists of Al Jazeera, was there covering the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, covered the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, and then the invasion of Iraq, was in Fallujah in April 2004. I have a question to ask about a man, an Al Jazeera reporter, who is being held at Guantanamo, Sami al-Hajj. Now, do you know him?
AHMED MANSUR: I know him like anyone. I don’t meet him at all.
AMY GOODMAN: You have learned that in the interrogations of this Al Jazeera reporter, they have questioned him about you?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. The lawyer told me, "They asked Sami about you one hundred times, more than one hundred times."
AMY GOODMAN: Sami al-Hajj’s attorney told you?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. Not Sami al-Hajj. Sami al-Hajj told his lawyer, and the lawyer told me. I had interview with him. And he told me, "They asked Sami about you more than one hundred times." I don’t know why, but I think they angry, they very angry. The United States, they very angry with me from this Fallujah battle. When at April 8, this spokesman of United States forces, a general — I remember him. I know him very well. He accused me on — lie, Ahmed Mansur is lie and all his report is false. Spokesman of United States Foreign Ministry talk about me a second time, maybe April 17, and told, Ahmed Mansur, all his words from Fallujah is false.
So, I become a number one of — they maybe put me — if Bush says that anyone not with us is against us, maybe they put me against them. But I was in Fallujah to introduce the truth to the people. This is my job, and this is my work. I introduce picture to people to see what is United States forces doing on civilian people in Fallujah. So I think they try to destroy me, destroy my job, destroy my life, because only I am only there.
I don’t know why they ask Sami about me more than one hundred times.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahmed Mansur, you also covered the elections in Egypt —
AHMED MANSUR: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — this past — was it — November. Can you describe what happened to you?
AHMED MANSUR: I should have an interview with — this is opposition leader in Egypt, Dr. [inaudible] I go down to Al Jazeera office to meet him outside. A lot of people come to me and shake hand me, and some of the people ask me photo, like any star working on TV. And another one come to me — I was talk Dr. — to my guest on phone. I asked him why you are late?
Someone come and asked me, "Are you Ahmed Mansur? I don’t answer him. And I asked him to wait to finish my phone. After that, when I finish, he back again. "Are you Ahmed Mansur?" I told him, "Yes." He began hit me on my face, and another one was behind me, butt me on my head, too, and they — before he hit me, he told me, "Why you talk about Al-Qaddafi on your program, bad words about Al-Qaddafi?" I think it is message to [inaudible], who sent them to hit me. Within 30 seconds only, they hit me and run.
AMY GOODMAN: So your face was very bruised.
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. My face and my hair and my head, too. I stay maybe three weeks under treatment.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet you went on the air?
AHMED MANSUR: My program was after 20 minutes only. I go to my program and —
AMY GOODMAN: Completely a mess from being —
AHMED MANSUR: Yes, yes. I appear live on my program. I introduce — complain to Interior Ministry. I told him this is two people try kill me maybe, because they strong — too strong, and everything was blending very good.
AMY GOODMAN: So you issued a challenge on your program that night and demanded that the Egyptian authorities investigate who beat you?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes, they investigate, but everything is closed. Because I — this is week after before this interview my guest should be Ministry of Parliament on the government.
AMY GOODMAN: You believe that the Egyptian government was behind the beating?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. I don’t believe — I don’t accuse anyone, but this is part of this story because some newspapers write about it, maybe some people don’t like Ahmed and the government and they do that and this is some journalists around the world listen to Egyptian government asked him about this.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there, though we will continue certainly to cover your story and to bring you tomorrow more on Al Jazeera. I want to thank you very much, Ahmed Mansur, for joining us.
AHMED MANSUR: Thank you.