I just wanted to jump and scream

I just wanted to jump and scream

-I make careful preparations before these interviews, so I know very well what the person I will meet will say. But what these leaders say still shocks me.

Yama Wasmal, 42, parked the car in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, where NRK's ​​Middle East office is now located. The sun is shining outside. The thermometer shows 20 degrees.

Since October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel and war broke out between the two sides, Wallasmal has covered the brutal reality in the Gaza Strip.

Nearly 30,000 people were killed and 70,000 injured, according to local health authorities. Most of them are women and children.

Briefly

  • NRK's ​​Middle East correspondent, Yama Wasmal, reports on the brutal reality in the Gaza Strip since the war between Hamas and Israel began in October.
  • He interviewed families who lost loved ones and military leaders who wanted revenge.
  • Walasmal, himself a war refugee, says his reporting is distinguished by his background and personality.
  • He has won praise for his approach to work, and admits that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is one of the most inflammatory conflicts he can cover.
  • Welasmal plans to return to Israel in March to update the NRK audience on the situation in Gaza.
  • 2024 is the last year that Welasmal will be NRK's ​​Middle East correspondent. What he will do next is still unknown.

NRK's ​​Middle East correspondent met families who lost loved ones, and influential military leaders who want bloodshed and revenge.

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“I go to these interviews knowing that emotions will be aroused in me on a human level,” says Wlasmal to Dagbladet.

In mid-November, he confronted the leader of Hamas Osama Hamdan About why they launched the attack on October 7. A little more than a month later, he met with the former Israeli general Giora IslandWho frankly said that Israel should starve and expel civilians in Gaza.

Face to face, Wlasmal seems to have kept his cool. Focused, professional and self-controlled. I was boiling inside.

– I sit, bite my tongue, and try to sit on my hands. It's an image that shows how provocative some of what is being said is to me.

The 42-year-old says he sometimes wanted to jump up and scream: “Can you really say that?!”

-But I have work to do, and I have to handle it professionally.

Post: Yama Wasmal says he is keen to talk to several sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And here with Hamas leader Osama Hamdan. Photo: NRK
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– It leaves a very strong impression on me

When Yama Wlasmal left the Dagsrevyen studio in 2020, changed his uniform and headed to Lebanon, it was with the aim of presenting NRK audiences with a more accurate picture of the Middle East.

As NRK's ​​11th correspondent in the region, the 42-year-old received a lot of praise for the way he handled the assignment.

-He is probably the best foreign correspondent in this country, said former NRK profiler Peter Nomi Last fall, he listed qualities such as humility, presence, wisdom and compassion.

Welasmal does not hide that he is a different kind of reporter from his predecessors, such as Odd Carsten Tveit, who many remember for his reports on wars and conflicts, almost standing under a hail of bullets.

– My way of covering is characterized by my background as a war refugee, and that I am a private person. I have no problem admitting that the things I experience make a very strong impression on me, so the challenge is to control my emotions, says Wlasmal.

Until 2021, when the Taliban took over Kabul, he managed. Choking on tears alive Wasmal told of the turmoil and uncertainty of the country where he was born.

– That day I couldn't keep the mask on. This is the only time in my 20 years as a journalist. It overflowed.

Change of Power: Yama and Asmal operate in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.  The way the group took control of Kabul left a strong impression on the reporter.  Photo: private

Change of Power: Yama and Asmal operate in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The way the group took control of Kabul left a strong impression on the reporter. Photo: private
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Wolasmal believes it's about who he is as a person. About heritage and environment.

In 1986, his father, journalist Muhammad Hassan Wasmal, was granted political asylum in Norway after criticizing Afghan warlords and their powerful supporters in the Pakistani army.

Four-year-old Yama came to Norway with his family, who soon settled in Gronerloka in Oslo. He remembers a very sociable home. Parents who loved conversations with people.

My mother was a very compassionate person, and she would lose sleep at night if something bad happened to her neighbor.

These are the qualities imprinted on him, which were present when he worked for NRK in the 17 countries he was responsible for covering.

– This is what makes things affect me. That I am an emotional person is a direct result of the upbringing I received.

Middle East Voice: Over the past three years, Yama and Asmal have reported to NRK on the situation in 17 countries in the Middle East.  Here from Ramallah.  Photo: private

Middle East Voice: Over the past three years, Yama and Asmal have reported to NRK on the situation in 17 countries in the Middle East. Here from Ramallah. Photo: private
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Ask people to see the whole picture

With the job of a Norwegian National Radio correspondent comes great responsibility. Wasmal says openly that the war between Israel and Hamas put him to the test.

Although many people support war, it reminds us that there are also large groups determined to find a peaceful solution.

Walasmal will talk to all parties.

– I fully realize that if I talk to Hamas, I must also talk to the Palestinians who represent the other side. The same applies to Israel.

Since October 7, the Radio and Television Council has received more than 1,000 complaints related to coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas. Most of it has to do with balance in coverage, council secretary Erik Skarud tells Dagbladet.

-I always ask people to look at the whole. You can't look at NRK's ​​coverage from one report to the next. There's a lot in between, so overall I feel like we're different.

Wallasmal describes the conflict between Israel and Palestine as the most exciting conflict journalists can cover.

– Emotions are extremely high on both sides. Both camps have very strong supporters in Norway.

If he said something wrong on the air, he could swear it would be found out. Criticism is often loud.

– Therefore, the coverage of this conflict is very intense. I went to cover this war with my heart in my throat thinking, “How's this going to go?”

On the street: Yama and Asmal during an interview in Ramallah, West Bank.  Photo: private

On the street: Yama and Asmal during an interview in Ramallah, West Bank. Photo: private
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– You don't need to quote me on that

In March, Wlasmal will return to Israel to once again update the NRK audience on the situation in Gaza. After that, he only had a few months left as a correspondent for the Middle East.

It is still unknown whether he will return to the “Dagsrevyen” studio.

– Exactly the process of returning home that I completely suppressed.

If you join the game, you have to endure the roasting, you know, and in NRK the job of a reporter means you've accepted the Game of Thrones where you're not guaranteed the same place when you return.

– There are few positions in Norway that can be compared to what I do now. To be completely honest, this is truly a dream job.

Clear commitment and fast pace are replaced by reflection and memories. Although he was usually an organized planner of everything, he had never bothered to think much about the stable and peaceful Norway of recent years.

If he made his own predictions, he would likely be affected by what is called “reporter disease” when he returned home. A situation in which the longing grows so great that returning reporters hit a wall.

– I don't say this out loud, but I usually tell my friends that this is a job I can do for free.

– But you don't have to quote me on that. hahaha.

-If your dream is a bit big, have you envisioned the kind of job you would like to do when you return?

– My dream job in my home country of Norway would have been a “Hard Talk” show, where I could ask people in power, both in Norway and internationally, critical and confrontational questions.

-Is the Lindmo chair also available now?

– Heh heh. Yes.

-I'm not exactly the entertaining type. not me.

He reveals the book's plans

In May, Yama's sister, Aisha Wasmal, will bring the book A thousand days with the Taliban About the time the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021 and the world left Afghanistan.

The journalist, veteran and former diplomat spent his life moving in and out of Afghanistan, continuing to work there when the Taliban took control.

Now publishers have also set their eyes on big brother Yama.

– There have been some inquiries about books, to put it mildly. The problem is when I find the time to write this book. But it becomes a book no Doubt.

-What will the topic be?

– I think people are primarily interested in life as reporters. What has it been like here in the Middle East in recent years. A lot of dramatic things have happened. Both with the fall of Kabul, and not the least of them is the final war now, as Wallasmal says, and continues:

– I think the main words will probably be the Middle East and Afghanistan.

-Do you feel lucky in the period you have reached?

– Yes. It's always exciting when you go out. Do you kind of think: “Is it going to be quiet” or “Am I going to be able to experience a lot of things?”

-I knew the job would provide excitement and drama, but I never imagined it would be this much.

Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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