Dylann Hanrahan ‘25
On September 20th, 2022, 15-year-old Zainab Essam Majed al-Khazali was struck in the head by a bullet fired by U.S. troops during routine military drills in the Victoria Base Complex, a U.S. military installation close to the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. The investigation confirmed that the bullet fired was from one of the weapons used by American forces. It is unclear whether the bullet was shot intentionally at the victim or was astray due to careless regulation regarding the firing of ammunition. Despite the complete lack of Western coverage, the death of Zainab al-Khazali has caused an uproar among locals. Victoria Base is located in a residential neighborhood where 15-year-old al-Khazali was shot in the head while helping her father tend to his farm. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq remains silent, ignoring pleas for an official apology for the murder. Iraqis say that this incident showcases the United States’ lack of respect for their country’s sovereignty.
Why has the Western media remained silent on this issue? Perhaps the large media conglomerates are following the lead or—dare I say direction—of their Democratic leaders. Those with power and influence have chosen to remain silent regarding the killing of Zainab al-Khazali but instead remain adamant about pushing Iran, shifting the focus away from the U.S. culpability in this incident in Iraq. At a conference for the United Nations, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was repeatedly, and rightfully so, questioned about the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Acting in defense, President Raisi directed eyes at the United States and President Biden while speaking to media outlets outside the United Nations General Assembly. U.S. officials have not commented on the incident, and I have not seen a single major Western media outlet cover the issue. Western media has now shifted focus to the murder of Mahsa Amini in Iran and the mass protests which call for regime change. The U.S., once again, appears to be pushing the notion of democracy and defending one’s choice. These harsh stabs at “human rights” have been used as a tactic in the media before. Time and time again, U.S. imperialism pushes its way into the Middle East amid concerns for personal freedoms to further justify the use of military force; however, the silence from Western media outlets is heard loud and clear from Iraqi residents as the death of Zainab al-Khazali continues to be ignored.
I was shocked by recent articles in two major U.S. publications that state the United States should fully support the Iranian people in a quest for democracy. I recently read Karim Sadjadpour’s piece in The Washington Post, “What the West should learn from the protests in Iran.” Sajadpour exclaims, “It is time for the Biden administration to broaden its Iran strategy […] Iran’s transition from theocracy to democracy may not come easily, peacefully or soon. But it is the single most important key to transforming the Middle East.” Transforming the Middle East? These last words of Sajadpour’s article in the Post frighten me as it further demonstrates the hypocrisy of the U.S.’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Sadjadpour additionally comments that the leaders of the Islamic Republic identity are rooted in their opposition to the United States. His article is obviously an egocentric and Western approach to Middle Eastern politics that I do not appreciate from a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. While I fully support Iran being held accountable for the murder of Mahsa Amini, Sajadpour’s article seems far too familiar to articles written about Iraq from 2003 whose authors lacked the ability to understand the region’s lush history and traditions.
The most coverage I find on Zainab al-Khazali’s death has been from foreign news outlets. There was a slight buzz on Twitter and even Reddit, which seems to be completely and, conveniently, politically ignored by the Western media. I urge you to discuss the death of Zainab Essam Majed al-Khazali and to remember that the United States is not always a saving grace in the war on human rights atrocities.