Giuliana Sgrena

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Giuliana Sgrena

Giuliana Sgrena (born December 20, 1948) is an Italian journalist who works for the Italian communist newspaper Il Manifesto and the German weekly Die Zeit. While working in Iraq, she was kidnapped by insurgents on February 4, 2005. After her release on March 4, 2005, Sgrena and the two Italian intelligence officers who had helped secure her release came under fire from U.S. forces while on their way to Baghdad International Airport. Nicola Calipari, a Major General in the Italian military intelligence service was killed, and Sgrena and one other officer were wounded in the incident. The event caused an international outcry.

Background and career[edit]

Giuliana Sgrena was born and raised in Masera, Province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, a town of fewer than 1000 people that had seen intense fighting during World War II between Italian partisans and German soldiers. Her father, Franco Sgrena, was a noted partisan during the war and later became an activist in the communist railway union.

Sgrena studied in Milan where she became involved in leftist politics. She became a professed pacifist and from 1980 worked for Guerra e Pace, a weekly publication edited by Michelangelo Notarianni.

In 1988, she joined the communist paper Il Manifesto and, as a war correspondent, has since covered conflicts such as the Algerian Civil War, the Somalian and the Afghanistan conflicts. During her travels, she reported extensively on topics from the Horn of Africa, the Maghreb and the Middle East.

As a campaigner for women's rights, she has been particularly concerned with the conditions of women under Islam. About this topic she wrote Alla scuola dei Taleban ("At the Taliban's school"), ISBN 88-7285-266-8.

She opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At the start of the war she went to Baghdad to cover the bombing of that city, for which work she was awarded the title Cavaliere del Lavoro on her return to Italy.

The kidnapping[edit]

Sgrena was kidnapped outside Baghdad University by gunmen in February 2005. In an article from March 2003 she had spoken openly about her concern for the security situation in Baghdad and her fear of being kidnapped.[1]

Allegations of imprudence[edit]

Anti-globalization activist Naomi Klein reported that Sgrena was "fully aware" of but willing to take "tremendous risks" in order to document the war[2]. Sgrena defended her decision to risk kidnapping as a necessary part of working as an unembedded reporter in a warzone. She points to her reporting on such critical incidents as the Second Battle of Fallujah, where, she argues, only unembedded reporters were able to report the level of destruction in the city and the ferocity of urban warfare, which according to her included the use of napalm[3].

She was later shown in a video pleading that the demands of her kidnappers, the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq, be fulfilled. Her release was subsequently negotiated and she was freed on March 4, 2005. Italy allegedly paid $6 million in ransom for her release.

Vauro's campaign[edit]

During the whole month-long captivity, the satirical artist of Il Manifesto Vauro maintained an uninterrupted focus on Sgrena, independently from any Italian political issues. His drawings typically featured a dove, symbol of peace, that was supposed to bring Sgrena back; some of the drawings were sad, some tried to be more cheerful, depending on the current hopes of retrieving Sgrena alive. In one occasion he wrote an appeal in Arabic to the kidnappers: "Give us Giuliana back, because I want to go back to mocking Berlusconi!". After one month, the series came to an end with Sgrena's liberation and Calipari's death: the dove, now likely symbolising Calipari, returned mortally wounded.

Rescue by Italian agents and shooting by US soldiers[edit]

After being rescued by Nicola Calipari and another SISMI agent, Ms Sgrena was being transported by car to Baghdad International Airport. However, a roadblock, put in place to protect John Negroponte's car convoy, fired on the vehicle, causing the death of Calipari and the wounding of Sgrena and of the other agent. Sgrena testified that US forces fired on the car without warning, and this incident caused strain in diplomatic relations between Italy and the United States. In actuality, her car was fired on by U.S. soldiers who claimed that they were duped into firing on the vehicle by an Al-Qaeda agent's false lead that a bomb was in the vehicle carrying Sgrena [4]. Sgrena has contradicted the claims of the US military version of the story and has insisted that no warnings were given before the soldiers shot at their car. Sgrena said that out of 58 bullets fired at the car, 57 were fired at the passenger and only the last bullet was fired at the engine of the car, which shows that the intention was not just to stop the car.[1]


In a November 2005 RAI documentary, Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre, Sgrena declared that the U.S. had used white phosphorus and napalm in Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury [5].

On June 26, 2006, Sgrena offered to meet with Spec. Mario Lozano, the New York National Guardsman who had shot at her car.[6]

Sgrena was awarded the Stuttgart peace prize in 2005.


  • Sgrena, Giuliana: "Alla scuola dei taleban", Editore Manifestolibri (collana Talpa di biblioteca), 2002, 174 p.
  • Sgrena, Giuliana: "Il fronte Iraq. Diario di una guerra permanente", Editore Manifestolibri (collana Talpa di biblioteca), 2004, 181 p.
  • Sgrena, Giuliana: "Fuoco amico", Editore Feltrinelli (collana Serie bianca), 2005, 157 p.
  • Sgrena, Giuliana: "Il prezzo del velo. La guerra dell'Islam contro le donne", Editore Feltrinelli (collana Serie bianca) 2008, 156 p.


External links[edit]