ROME - Giuliana Sgrena, freed from a month-long hostage ordeal in Iraq, is a hardened 56-year-old war correspondent who has focused on the brutal consequences of war for civilians and highlighted the degradation of women.
Her newspaper, the Rome-based communist daily Il Manifesto, is a bitter opponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the involvement of 3,000 Italian troops deployed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
U.S. forces fired at a car carrying Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena shortly after her liberation, wounding some of the passengers, the journalist's newspaper said March 4, 2005. Sgrena, who was kidnapped in Baghdad, February 4, 2005 as she conducted interviews on the street, is seen in this undated handout photo. (Reuters - Handout)
"She is one of the rare war correspondents today," said Maurizio Matteuzzi, the newspaper's foreign editor. "She has a deep knowledge of the Islamic world and she has been very committed about reporting the condition of women in that world."
"She rejected the idea of being 'embedded' (with the troops under military supervision) and opted to do very personal reportage," said Loris Campetti, one of her editors at Il Manifesto.
In her last articles from Baghdad, she reported the story of an Iraqi woman held in the US-run Abu Ghraib prison and the run-up to the Iraqi elections on January 30 in Sadr City, a notorious fundamentalist suburb of Baghdad.
And before her own kidnapping, she wrote about the disappearance on January 5 of a fellow journalist, Florence Aubenas, a reporter for the Paris daily Liberation, and her Iraqi guide. She defended the right of journalists to do their work freely in a war zone.
War correspondents, she wrote, "make known the reality which otherwise would just be described in official war bulletins and propaganda pamphlets."
A native of Piedmont in northern Italy, the daughter of an Italian World War II resistance fighter, she has been covering Iraq since the first Gulf War in 1991.
She described the consequences of this latest war for the Iraqi people in a book entitled "The Iraqi front, journal of a permanent war".
When she appeared in a videotape released by her abductors on February 16, she implored the Italian government to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
A former leftist militant, Sgrena joined Il Manifesto in 1988. Her assignments have taken her to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, in particular Algeria, where she wrote in 1997 about the Algerian crisis of the 1990s and the question of Islamic fundamentalism in the country.
For all her experience in danger zones, her colleagues and friends say she is not the stereotypical hardened war correspondent. She is "modest and discreet," Campetti said.
Sgrena's companion, Pier Scolari, says she is someone who went to find out "about people and social classes that are not well known, in countries that are often forgotten, in order to describe the reality of their daily lives."
© 2005 SFP