Sunday, 27 September 2020

UN in your language

My Last Christmas with Nadia

Written by Afsané Bassir-Pour, UNRIC Director, to mark World Humanitarian Day.

Eight years already since what we thought was impossible became possible. Eight years since the UN Headquarters in Baghdad was bombed by Al-Qaida terrorists. The day innocence died and we realized to our collective horror that the UN could be a direct target. Twenty two of our colleagues died that day, three of them were close personal friends, but Nadia Younes was the closest and dearest of all friends.

The Christmas before that terrible day Nadia had invited my family and I to spend the holidays at her house at Vence, in the South of France. The idea was to have a fun Christmas to get away from the doldrums of Geneva where we had both recently moved. Nadia as Assistant Director General of W.H.O, and me sent to Geneva by my newspaper Le Monde.

There was nothing Nadia loved more than a good laugh, with a glass of Black Label and a pack of Marlborough red at hand. But that particular Christmas, I’m afraid I didn’t make Nadia laugh much. I had death on my mind. I was on a tight deadline for an article due for publication on Christmas eve, it was about assisted suicide in Switzerland. The lead of the article was Marie wants to die. I used Nadia as a sounding board for this heartbreaking article, I would read passages to her as I wrote. “Thanks a lot Af, here we are supposedly on a break from depressing old Geneva and you are writing about death, I don’t wanna hear anything about death and dying, don’t read to me any more”. Af, that is what she used to call me. Little did I know that only eight months later I would be writing in Le Monde about Nadia’s own death.

It was August 19 2003, the day my friend died.

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