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+ "Waiting for Rahma"

From Martin Smith

click here for a larger map Marcela is down in the lobby. I am waiting in my chair. Scott is tinkering with lights and microphones. Our interviewee is late. We've set up in the hotel because Rahma Hujira's husband says that he won't allow us in their home. We met Rahma a few days ago in Sana'a and she agreed to meet us upon our return from Southern Yemen.

A few weeks ago Rahma wrote an article for the Yemen Daily, a local paper, about how she was willing to be a suicide bomber if that is what it took to keep Americans out of Iraq. I want to talk to her about her meetings with detained Al Qaeda suspects in Yemen's jails. But, I know that she will talk about what she wants.

I look at my watch; it is 10:30. She was supposed to show at 10:00. I am not too concerned yet. We try to call her and there is no response. I call Marcela in the lobby and she hasn't seen anything. By 11:00, I start to worry this interview is falling through. We get word through an intermediary that her son is sick and she has gone to the hospital. As callous as it seems, I can't believe it for a second. Something is up and she is dodging us.

I tell Scott to roll the camera. This was an important interview, a clincher, a conversation with a smart, educated young woman, who articulates a fiercely anti-American point of view with a deadly combination of a perfect smile, disconcerting charm and consistent logic. I am disappointed. It is, after all, people like Rahma that Americans need to hear. She is not a nut, just an Islamist who doesn't trust the current administration in Washington to deliver the kind of democracy and family values that she wants for her country and her young family.

I look into the camera and make it up as I go "We are waiting to speak with a young woman who told me when I met her a few days ago that she wants to raise her young son to be the next Osama bin Laden. Her name is Rahma Hujira, she calls herself a journalist. She believes in ... cut. "

I think about what is it that I can say that will salvage something here. I look at Scott who breaks his back day in and day out to set up and break down all these light stands, wind all these cables, set these video levels, compose all these pictures. "Go. Roll again."

"This is a Sana'a, the Taj Sheba Hotel, Room 653. We've got plans to leave tomorrow but we are waiting to speak with a young woman who says she wants to raise her young son to be the next Osama bin Laden. Her name is Rahma Hujira, and she says that America is like a, a, a, vampire -- sucking oil from, from, from ... stop."

I can't do this. I try a few more times. I don't do much better. I call Marcela; she knows nothing. I tell Scott to wrap it up. We are done. We've lost this one. Marcela comes back to the room and I tell her this one is hers. If she can get Rahma to come tomorrow, try. I have small hope.

Ed. Note: Smith was able to interview Rahma the following day. For more on Rahma, read the transcript of her interview, and this essay she wrote for FRONTLINE, "The United States and Us -- Who is Attacking Whom?"

< previous dispatch

(Aug. 13-14)

Zubaydah Is Dead
13 August, London

Armchair Jihadists
14 August, London

Gulf of Oman
(Aug. 15-21)

Faces at a Dubai Mall
15 August, Dubai, U.A.E.

HMCS Algonquin
16 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

On Board the Algonquin
17-18 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

Like an Elephant Chasing a Mouse
17-18 August, Gulf of Oman

Dubai to Karachi
20 August

A Firehose of Information
20-21 August, Dubai - Muscat - Chennai

(Aug. 22-29)

Old Hash
22 August, Islamabad

Nuclear Neighbors
22-23 August, Islamabad

We Believe in God
24 August, Islamabad

Paranoid in Peshawar
27 August, Peshawar

Bombs or Dust Devils
27-28 August, Peshawar

Rumors and Half Truths
28 August, Peshawar

Pakistan Border Lands
(Aug. 30-Sept. 4)

On the Road to Chitral
30 August, Dir Khas

Prisoners' Dilemma
31 August, Dir

In the Northwest Frontier
30-31 August, Dir

Border Town
2 September, Chitral to Arandu

Don't Go to Timargarha
1-2 September, Drosh to Timargarha

An American Informer
3-4 September, Peshawar

(Sept. 5-23)

Road to Nowhere
7 September, Islamabad to Faisalabad

Faisal Town
7 September, Faisalabad

9 September, Faisalabad

The Plight of Women
10 September, Faisalabad

A Little Noticed Gun Battle
10-13 September, Lahore-Karachi

The Madrassa
14 September, Akora Khattak

The Next Big Get
20 September, Karachi - Islamabad

A Circle of Trust
21 September, Islamabad

23 September, Islamabad

Saudi Arabia
(Sept. 24-Oct. 2)

Inside the Kingdom
24-25 September, Riyadh

My Baffling Question
27 September, Unizah-Buraydah

An Obedient Dissident
27 September, Buraydah

An Audience with the Crown Prince
2 October, Riyadh

(Sept. 25-Oct. 10)

Arriving in Yemen
25-26 September, Sana'a

The Wedding Party
27 September, Sana'a

A Talking Drug
28 September, Sana'a

The World's Most Ancient Skyscrapers
3 October, Sana'a

Americans Are Vampires
7 October, Sana'a

+ Waiting for Rahma
9 October, Sana'a

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