Home—Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada.
Journalist and writer. Reporter in the Middle East, 1992—; reporter in Iraq, 1997—. Has also reported from Iran, North Africa, Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Lebanon, Colombia, Indonesia, and Gaza; work has been broadcast on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: A Woman's Journey through Iraq (memoir), Olive Branch Press (Northampton, MA), 2005.
Journalist Hadani Ditmars lives in Canada, but has reported from several countries in the Middle East. She took her first trip to Iraq in 1997 for the New York Times. While there, she saw the effects of then-president Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime. Harsh sanctions were inflicted on the Iraqi people, causing misery and despair. Yet, Ditmars also found that the Iraqis still celebrated their culture through art and music despite their misfortunes; artists spent what little money they had on supplies, and orchestras used broken instruments to play symphonies. Ditmars continued to travel to Iraq and report on its people.
In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq in order to disarm the illegal weapons of mass destruction that the government purportedly possessed. Although the weapons were never found, Saddam Hussein was removed from office and his regime fell. The war continued as violence and Iraqi resistance to American troops persisted. At this time, Ditmars returned to the country to see how the war affected the people she had come to know. The result of this journey was her memoir Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: A Woman's Journey through Iraq, published in 2005. In the book, Ditmars relates the stories of many different Iraqis, from cab drivers to intellectuals, and tells of their daily struggles before and after the invasion. She describes the malnourished children who, according to a United Nations report, were better off during Saddam Hussein's rule. Ditmars also took strides in her book to give voice to oft-silenced Iraqi women.
Critical response to Dancing in the No-Fly Zone was mixed. Michael Rubin, writing in the Middle East Quarterly, felt that the book "is of little value to anyone wishing to achieve a deeper understanding of Iraq." Other critics disagreed, however, including Booklist reviewer Pamela Crossland, who noted "Ditmars portrays [the Iraqi people's] plight with great sensitivity and respect," and a Kirkus Reviews critic who pointed out that the author's "observations on the invaders are smart and to the point." Finally, Paul William Roberts, reviewing the book in the Toronto Globe and Mail, claimed that it is "written with elegance, wisdom and compassionate humour," and that it is "a unique triumph and a somewhat daunting debut." Roberts concluded: "Anyone who cares about the truth of this squalid invasion owes [Ditmars] an enormous debt of gratitude for what is one of the few great books written about it."
In an interview with Herizons contributor Shannon Devine, Ditmars stated: "I think that we need people to speak up for the spirit of Iraq and Iraqi people. What I'm celebrating is the spirit of the place and the land itself, which exists independently of presidents, regimes, occupations and invasions." Ditmars continued: "People have this idea of what war-zone reportage is supposed to be. It's supposed to be written by a middle-aged, macho, male, gunslinging correspondent constantly in the line of fire. For people who are expecting that, they are going to be a little thrown by my book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ditmars, Hadani, Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: A Woman's Journey through Iraq, Olive Branch Press (Northampton, MA), 2005.
Booklist, January 1, 2006, Pamela Crossland, review of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone, p. 47.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 14, 2005, Paul William Roberts, "Footloose, but Not Fancy Free," review of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone, p. D16.
Herizons, spring, 2006, Shannon Devine, "The Spirit of Iraqi Women: Interview with Hadani Ditmars," p. 16.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2005, review of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone, p. 1263.
Middle East Quarterly, spring, 2006, Michael Rubin, review of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone, p. 76.
Speak Out Institute for Democratic Education and Culture Web site,http://www.speakoutnow.org/ (June 16, 2006), biographical information on author.*