Christina Lamb: A woman driven by a passion for storytelling
Her reporting career, which began in Peshawar during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, has seen her narrowly escape danger on several occasions.
Christina Lamb never set out to make a career out of journalism, but over the years - driven by a passion for storytelling - she's travelled the globe, giving a voice to the voiceless in often dangerous, life-threatening situations.
Lamb - now a foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times - is also the author of several books, including I am Malala, which she co-wrote with Malala Yousafzai, Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World, and In Nujeen, which she co-wrote with a teenage Syrian girl who escaped her war-torn homeland to Germany on a wheelchair.
Her reporting career, which began in Peshawar during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, has seen her narrowly escape danger on several occasions. Notably, in 2007 she was on-board a bus which was attacked during an attempt on the life of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, which left at least 180 people dead.
Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Emirates Literature Festival, Lamb said that it was never her intention to make a career out travelling to dangerous places. "I never set out to cover to cover conflict or war. I just wanted to be a reporter and travel and write. I actually really just wanted to be a novelist," she said. "I had an idea to be a journalist for a couple of years, have some adventures, and then go and live in a garret somewhere and write my great novel."
"What happened was that the first place I was covering was Afghanistan, and everyone had amazing stories," she added. "I thought I can't make up stories like that, and was fascinated. So I've ended up telling other people's stories every since. I wish there wasn't so much war going on and I could write about other things."
Additionally, Lamb noted that there is an element of excitement that keeps pulling her back to warzones. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't addictive. It is. You're meeting people living on the edge in really dramatic circumstances, and it's very difficult sometimes to go back to everyday life after doing that," she said. "Also, the world is a much messier place. There are more wars going on now than ever in my lifetime. If you want to cover major foreign issues, that means going into dangerous places."
Over the years, she noted, work such as hers has become more dangerous, as extremist groups and governments increasingly turn their weapons on journalists. "If they kill a soldier, it doesn't make headlines, or if they kill local people," she said. "If they kill a journalist, it makes headlines, and they don't differentiate. They don't see us as independent. To them, we're all the same, military and journalists. They see us as part of what they're fighting against."
Despite the difficult - and often sad - situations that she often reports on and writes about, Lamb said she does what she can to find the uplifting, positive stories that can arise from tragedy, such as the tale of Nujeen Mustafa, the wheelchair-bound Syrian who travelled 3,500 miles from her destroyed hometown of Kobani to Germany.
"I'm very interested in these places, and sometimes my heart sinks at yet another story that seems to be the same. It's important that newspapers give a good mix of things, that it isn't all doom and gloom, otherwise people won't keep reading," she said. "I try very hard to find to find inspirational people in these situations."
"My book with Nujeen, I could have written a miserable refugee book," she added. "Nujeen was a great person to write about. She was very upbeat, determined, and funny. It's not depressing. you find the most amazing people in the hardest of situations. It restores your faith in humanity, a bit."
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