There are some iconic images that stick in our minds when we reflect on the past 11 years about Iraq. Perhaps footage of US contractors who were killed and dragged through the streets of Fallujah. Or George W. Bush ducking a flying shoe during a press conference in Baghdad. Iraqi cameraman, Yasser Faisal Al-Joumaili is the source of these and many other resonant images from the Iraq war years.
Fearless and talented, Yasser was dedicated to telling the story as it unfolded in turbulent places like Fallujah and Ramadi. “A lot of people who didn’t know Yasser Faisal know a part of Iraq through him…Yasser’s work made it possible for us to shed some light on parts of Iraq the world rarely sees,” writes Jane Arraf on the Al Jazeera blog.
Having survived the war in Iraq, Yasser sadly met his end on December 4, 2013 at the age 34 while covering the Syrian civil war. He was kidnapped and executed by militants loyal to Al-Qaeda in the northwestern province of Idlib while on assignment. This kind of tragic and dispiriting news is frequenting headlines more and more often. According to Reporters Without Borders, Yasser is the eighth foreign journalist killed in Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. Twelve Syrian professional journalists and more than 90 citizen journalists have also lost their lives in the midst of this conflict.
A kind soul and dedicated cameraman, Yasser is remembered fondly on all fronts. Correspondent, Imran Khan, recounts a memory of Yasser while on assignment together. Yasser was wearing a goofy hat and glasses that made him “look like he was about to cook up a BBQ in Kansas somewhere. He knew how ridiculous he looked but he was determined to make me laugh because we were very definitely not in Kansas. We were on the Syrian border. Yasser joked that we should sneak over. Playing along, I said only if he didn’t make me carry the tripod. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and said no big cameras, we will film it all on this. Yasser was always quick with a witty remark. I don’t know what camera he took into Syria. I didn’t know he was going in.”
Omar al-Saleh, reporter for Al Jazeera describes working with Yasser in the Qandil Mountains in Northern Iraq. “We had enjoyed a treat of two and a half nights in the mountains with the PKK fighters. Even amid the awful conditions, you were having fun filming the female fighters. You gave me a wealth of beautifully shot footage – enough to make a whole documentary. I still remember your face when the PKK commander asked you to join them. “I am married and have three children to look after,” you said. We laughed. But now you have left your lovely wife and children with no-one to look after them.”
Supporting his wife and three children, in addition to three sisters and two ill parents, Yasser was bearing a heavy load. Financing the care of his family through his freelance work, Yasser is no longer able to support his loved ones. Omar al-Saleh continues in his blog post on Al Jazeera, “I know you were always a dedicated cameraman who wanted to capture everything, to tell the untold stories of misery, violence, injustice and war…You worked hard and took risks. But I know your story. And I know why you did what you did. You had a mission. And it was your family and their wellbeing.”
Friends and colleagues of Yasser have banded together to continue Yasser’s mission by setting up a donation site on YouCaring.com to help Yasser’s family, focusing on his children’s education. If you can afford to, please donate to this cause. Help spread the word to help Yasser’s family and bring awareness of the need to protect photojournalists everywhere.