How an ICFJ Program Led to Quality Journalism and so Much More

Oct 292015

For a pair of reporters, participating in a program with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) didn’t just change the course of their careers. It altered the rest of their lives.

In 2010, Syrian reporter Alia Turki Al-Rabeo traveled to Egypt to participate in ICFJ’s Reporting Across Cultures: Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age program, held in the famous Alexandria Library.

After taking part in an online course and an initial training session in Nepal, ICFJ selected Al-Rabeo and other top participants to attend the Alexandria conference, which focused on covering Muslim-West relations.

Upon her arrival at the conference, Alia teamed up with Armenian-American freelance journalist Ruzanna Tantushyan and Pakistani investigative reporter Naveed Ahmad.

From the very start, Alia says, she and Naveed just clicked. “I found him very professional and well-read. Besides, he is very humble and caring. His sense of humor and charismatic personality were the factors [that made me want to get] to know him better.”

Together, she, Naveed and Ruzanna produced a project called “End Prejudice.” They later transformed the project into a new site called “Silent Heroes, Invisible Bridges,” which featured print, audio and video stories that contradict religious and cultural stereotypes.

The site eventually won a United Nations X-Cultural Reporting Award, and Alia and Naveed went on to claim another, more personal reward.

In May of 2015, exactly five years after first working together at the Alexandria conference, Naveed and Alia got engaged. They were married in Istanbul on Alia’s birthday, July 18, 2015.

Naveed Ahmad and Alia Turki Al-Rabeo first met as participants in an ICFJ program.

Now, Naveed leads their site’s team of five professional journalists. He also conducts journalism training on issues such as investigative reporting and covering conflict. Alia acts as a contributing editor when she isn’t too busy working as editor at Kutub magazine, the monthly review of books published by at Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

The couple still keep in touch online with friends from the ICFJ program that first brought them together.

Images courtesy of Naveed Ahmad and Alia Turki Al-Rabeo.