military coup in 1949), she says the most frightening war zone she has visited is Syria. It was around this time last year that she was holed up in a bunker in Baba Amr with the late war reporter Marie Colvin, four days before she was killed. “Yup,” she says quietly, “we both left because it was getting so dangerous. And then Marie decided she had to go back.”
A Skidmore graduate, the impetus to become a war reporter came after 9/11. “In my naïve way, I thought because I looked all-American and spoke fluent Arabic, that would somehow qualify me to convey what was going on in the Middle East.”
Her ultimate dream was to work at CNN’s Baghdad bureau, but she kept getting fobbed off. Undeterred, after spending a few months in Iraq freelancing, she got a job with a Lebanese company selling portable toilets. “It was a five-day job, so I knocked on CNN’s door and said, ‘You wanna know me? Well, here I am, let’s go.’”
Fast forward a decade or so and Damon’s reputation in the industry
is superb. “[Arwa’s] main – and important – contribution to the ‘biz’ is that she is a real reporter,” says Christiane Amanpour, host of CNN International’s nightly interview program Amanpour, and Global Affairs Anchor of ABC News. “She goes out and tells stories. What she does is so rare these days when talking-heads and armchair warriors dominate. She believes in being there.”
Style-wise, Damon likes big ethnic-inspired jewelry and loves, as most war reporters do, a ‘good luck’ scarf. “I wear a lot of black
“When I go to SYRIA,
it’s a question
of carrying EVERYTHING you have on your back”
because it's just so easy,” she says. She could give a masterclass in how to pack light. “When I was embedded with the military in Iraq, I at least had a base, it was just a question of downsizing. When I go
to Syria, it’s a question of carrying everything you have on your back.”
Currently, Damon is based in Beirut minutes away from where her parents live. In a couple of weeks, she is going back to Iraq to mark the 10th anniversary of the war. And yes, she very much plans to get back to Syria,
despite, or perhaps because of, the death of her friend Colvin.
“I’m not an adrenaline junkie,
I have a very healthy respect for fear. But I’m that breed of reporter who has this fundamental desire
to get out there and see what is actually happening,” she explains.
Strong, determined and unafraid: more women like Arwa, please.
Arwa’s utilitarian style
“I ALWAYS PACK LIGHT – I take just four T-shirts when
I go away.”
“THESE HOOP EARRINGS remind me of a pair that I got in Amman.”
a black dress."
Jacket by Rick Owens; T-shirt by Kain; skirt by Burberry Prorsum; necklace by Gucci; ring by Reed Krakoffcredits
Stylist: Helen Thomson. Fashion assistant: Sarah Atkinson