The fiancee of a journalist snatched off the street in Iraq said he spends much of his time there because of his passion to preserve the country’s culture and history.
Marie-Helene Carleton said Micah Garen, who is also her colleague and co-founder of New York-based Four Corners Media, was working on a story about the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq when he was abducted.
“He has a passion for Sumerian archaeology,” Carleton said Monday. “That’s why he spent a year of his life working to make sure it was safeguarded.”
Garen, 36, and his Iraqi translator, Amir Doushi, were kidnapped Friday by two armed men in a busy market in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, Iraqi police said.
According to its Web site, Four Corners is a “documentary organization working in still photography, video and print media.” The Web site says Garen is one of the organization’s managers, and shows a portfolio of his photos in Iraq.
A spokesman for Italian forces deployed in Nasiriyah, Capt. Ettore Sarli, said Garen had been staying at the Italian air base there, but left Aug. 12 and told the troops he was headed to Baghdad.
Carleton said Garen last e-mailed his mother on Aug. 13, and has not been heard from since. He had planned to return to the states on Monday.
In New Haven, Conn., Garen’s father Alan said he, too, had not heard from his son for several days.
Carleton said their firm has produced a documentary for PBS’ “New York Voices” series and has produced several photo essays on the war in Iraq. Their work has also been featured in Archaeology Magazine.
They also had a story and multimedia piece featured in The New York Times on the conflict, she said.
This was Garen’s third trip to Iraq in the past year. He first visited last June, then again around Christmas. He went again in March and has been there since, Carleton said.
“He loves the Middle East and has spent time traveling in the Middle East,” she said. “He spent eight of the last twelve months there and loves Iraq.”
Garen, who was born in New Haven, Conn., but has resided in New York for the past decade, has studied archaeology and has a degree in landscape architecture from Cornell University.
“It’s important to understand he’s an independent journalist, not a contractor, nor does he have any association with the military,” said Carleton.