I never once considered whether I would cover the Iraq war. The only question was on which front. After a couple of weeks of waiting around in Kuwait, I decided to pull off assignment and fly to Tehran to slip into northern Iraq. An Iranian government official met another Time correspondent and I at Tehran airport, and organized immediate transportation for us to the Iran-Iraq border. I spent the early months of the war in the snowy mountains of Kurdistan, covering the ongoing battle between the Sunni Islamist group Ansar al-Islam and the Kurdish armed forces called peshmerga, which literally means "those who face death."
By summer, I had made my way south to cover the rising insurgency. In August, I traveled to the city of Najaf to take pictures of the Shiite religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr, when a massive car bomb detonated at the Tomb of Imam Ali. I jumped out of my car in traffic, my camera straps tangled up with my headscarf, to race toward the scene. As I turned the corner, before my eyes was a scene straight out of hell. Cars were burning. Charred remains of people lay in the street. A man held a dismembered leg up to the sky with a questioning gaze as if he wanted me to tell him what to do.
The following week, colleagues congratulated me on the six pages of pictures published in Time. Yet I had never felt so unhappy about my success.
Above: A man shouts at the site of an explosion. An estimated 135 people were killed in a car bombing at the Tomb of Imam Ali in Najaf in August 2003. The attack targeted Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr and occurred as the faithful were leaving after Friday prayers.