ASU professor wins Pulitzer Prize for New York Times series

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The Pulitzer Prize was recently awarded to ASU professor Azmat Khan for her work on a New York Times series that challenged official accounts of civilian casualties from U.S. led airstrikes in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Joining us today is Azmat Khan, journalist and professor at ASU’s School of Politics & Global Studies. Here are a few questions from the interview.

Note: Answers have been lightly edited for clarity purposes

Q: Your reaction to the award?

Answer: It was incredibly exciting to see years of reporting recognized with the highest honor of journalism. Also, I know it meant a great deal to the survivors; to family members; people who lost loved ones to see their stories, their voices heard and recognized. When it’s really hard to break through to really hear those accounts amidst all we have been told about precision warfare.

Q: what started you on this investigation?

I have followed what has been happening in terms of this shift towards airstrikes and drone strikes for years. It really took a turn for me during the escalation of the war against ISIS. When we were seeing these 10s of thousands of American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, I was reading these claims, I remember very specifically remember looking at the front page of a newspaper and these claims of “we have killed 25,000 ISIS fighters in these airstrikes.” At the same time, I have been following closely what the U.S, military was saying about how many civilian casualties that occurred of a little more than two dozen. Those numbers just did not add up, they would be impossible and yet they were going unchecked. So I thought “What can I do, can I get on the ground to really look at these and do a sample in Iraq or in Syria?” Just to see how many of these strikes are killing civilians, the first time I really sough to do that it took me 18 months. I went door-to-door for the first part of this investigation and I found that one-in-five U.S. airstrikes was resulting in a civilian death, a rate that was 31x higher than what our military was claiming. I spend the next several years digging into those more deeply.

If you want to read more on Azmat Khan, click here.

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