Muhammad Najem, Syrian who reported on war as a teenager, releases 'harrowing' graphic memoir
A Syrian refugee who gained international fame for documenting the brutal war in his country as a teenager has released a graphic novel about his life and work.
So excited to announce: Our book Muhammad Najem, War Reporter is available in stores & Amazon. Congrats Nora Neus & Julie Robine; WE DID IT! Still in shock! Huge thanks to all! So sorry I couldn't be there to celebrate with you, one day I will have a passport. pic.twitter.com/GP4wflgudT— Muhammad Najem (@muhammadnajem20) September 27, 2022
Co-written with Emmy-awarding journalist Nora Neus and illustrated by Julie Robine, 'Muhammad Najem, War Reporter' recounts the tender and traumatic wartime experiences of the Syrian reporter and his family in his early and teenage years.
Muhammad Najem, from Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, was only eight when the war began. At 13, his father was killed in a bombing while he prayed.
Two years later, the then 15-year-old began using his camera phone to document what Syrians were enduring in the war, including bombings by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and hideouts in underground shelters.
Interviews with children, like his toddler brother and sister, captured the attention of international audiences.
"I still can’t believe it!" Najem wrote on Instagram with a picture of him holding the graphic novel.
"So sorry I couldn't be there to launch it and celebrate with you, maybe one day, I will have a passport," he added.
Neus and Robine signed copies of the book at a launch in the US, leaving a special note from Najem who lives in Istanbul.
It’s out in the world! Unbelievable to see MUHAMMAD NAJEM, WAR REPORTER on shelves at @wordbookstores in Greenpoint. @beancuizine and I signed copies this morning— and left a special note from @muhammadnajem20 too! pic.twitter.com/lYlFKyxYDM— Nora Neus (@noraneus) September 27, 2022
Najem told Teen Vogue that one of his favourite reportages was when a bomb fell directly behind him. "It was kind of scary, but at the same time, I didn't even feel that the bomb had fallen, because I was shooting," he told the magazine.
Nora, the co-author, said her favourite tale involved the family parrot. Najem’s father once saw the pet as a nuisance - but over the course of the book, he falls in love with the bird.
The young Syrian, who continues to use social media to advocate for the freedom of Syrians and Iranians as well as other causes, said he hoped the book would inspire others to make their voices heard.
"We are not a violent people, we started the war asking for democracy, and I think everyone should have democracy. We have to get our freedom. Without freedom, we cannot live," he told Teen Vogue.
The war in Syria, which began after pro-democracy protests were brutality repressed by the Assad regime, has raged on for over a decade.
More than 500,000 have died as a result of the conflict and millions have left or been displaced from their homeland.