When Is a 14-Year-Old Girl a 'Woman'?
By Sarah Weber
Published: July 11, 2006 1:45 PM ET
NEW YORK Ever since the case of the raping and killing of an Iraqi
and the alleged murder of three of her family members by U.S. troops
went public, the age of the rape victim had been in dispute, ranging
from about 15 to 25. Two days ago, Reuters and others news agencies
produced proof that she was 14, based on a passport and identity
card. Most news organizations then started calling her a girl -- but
some persist in referring to her as a "woman."
The girl was apparently born August 19, 1991. Yet a widely published
AP story today by Robert H. Reid repeatedly referred to the girl,
whose last name was al-Janabi, as a “young Iraqi woman" and later
again as a "woman." The story was in reference to the gag order being
requested by attorneys of Steven D. Green, an ex-soldier who is one
of the men charged with the rape and murders. It begins: "An al-Qaida- linked group posted a Web video today purporting to show the
mutilated bodies of two Fort Campbell soldiers, claiming it killed
them in revenge for the rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman by
American troops from the same unit."
A separate AP story today by Juan Lozano, on the soldiers' families
defending them, also refers to the girl as a "young woman."
In Tuesday's Washington Post, an article by Joshua Partlow refers to
the teenager as an “Iraqi woman.” USA Today continues to feature the
AP "young woman" story. The CNN site calls the victim a "young
female" and a "woman." A CNN report aired Tuesday by Nic Robertson
continued to refer to the child as a "young woman."
Yet a full day earlier, and again today, The New York Times was
calling her a "girl." The Los Angeles Times today referred to her as
a "teenage Iraqi" and later as a "teen." Bloomberg used "girl" and
McClatchy's dispatch chose "teenager." Reuters simply stated her age:
But Jim Lehrer on his PBS "NewsHour" last night referred to her a
"woman." At the CBS News site today, a joint CBS/AP story uses "young
Other stories today continue to offer caveats, claiming that the age
of the young victim was “in dispute.” The Reid AP story referred to
an FBI affidavit concerning Green’s charges, which estimated al- Janabi to be about 25. The article went on to say that “a doctor at
the Mahmoudiya hospital gave her age as 14. He refused to be
identified for fear of reprisals.” The AP story does not mention the
Reuters release of al-Janabi’s passport and the other supporting
An AP wire photo published with many of the stories does refer to the
victim as a "girl."
UPDATE: In a story for Wednesday's Washington Post, following the E&P
story above, reporter Joshua Partlow, who had earlier described the
14-year-old as a woman, now refers to her an an "Iraqi girl."
Sarah Weber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a reporter for E&P.