Oriana Fallaci (June 29, 1929 – September 14, 2006) was an Italian journalist, author, and political interviewer. A former antifascist partisan during World War II, she had a long and successful journalistic career. She died September 14, 2006, in her native Florence, Italy. She was 77 years old and had been suffering from breast cancer for some 15 years.The May issue of The New Yorker has a long piece on Fallaci. Here is a description of her interview with the Ayatollah Khomeini, which shows that Khomeini had no more luck intimidating Fallaci than anyone else did.
She was called "our most celebrated female writer" by Ferruccio De Bortoli, former director of the newspaper Corriere della Sera. Decades ago, the Los Angeles Times described her as "the journalist to whom virtually no world figure would say no."
As a young journalist, she interviewed many internationally known leaders and celebrities such as Henry Kissinger, the Shah of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, Lech Wałęsa, Willy Brandt, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Walter Cronkite, Omar Khadafi, Federico Fellini, Sammy Davis Jr, Deng Xiaoping, Nguyen Cao Ky, Yasir Arafat, Indira Gandhi, Alexandros Panagoulis, Archbishop Makarios, Golda Meir, Nguyen Van Thieu, Haile Selassie and Sean Connery.
...In May 2005, Adel Smith, president of the Union of Italian Muslims, launched a lawsuit against Fallaci charging that "some of the things she said in her book The Force of Reason are offensive to Islam." Smith's attorney, Matteo Nicoli, cited a phrase from the book that refers to Islam as "a pool that never purifies." Consequently an Italian judge ordered her to stand trial set for June 2006 in Bergamo on charges of "defaming Islam." A previous prosecutor had sought dismissal of the charges. The preliminary trial began on 12 June in Bergamo and on 25 June Judge Beatrice Siccardi decided that Oriana Fallaci should indeed stand trial beginning on 18 December.
Fallaci’s interview with Khomeini, which appeared in the Times on October 7, 1979, soon after the Iranian revolution, was the most exhilarating example of her pugilistic approach. Fallaci had travelled to Qum to try to secure an interview with Khomeini, and she waited ten days before he received her. She had followed instructions from the new Islamist regime, and arrived at the Ayatollah’s home barefoot and wrapped in a chador. Almost immediately, she unleashed a barrage of questions about the closing of opposition newspapers, the treatment of Iran’s Kurdish minority, and the summary executions performed by the new regime. When Khomeini defended these practices, noting that some of the people killed had been brutal servants of the Shah, Fallaci demanded, “Is it right to shoot the poor prostitute or a woman who is unfaithful to her husband, or a man who loves another man?” The Ayatollah answered with a pair of remorseless metaphors. “If your finger suffers from gangrene, what do you do? Do you let the whole hand, and then the body, become filled with gangrene, or do you cut the finger off? What brings corruption to an entire country and its people must be pulled up like the weeds that infest a field of wheat.”It makes you wonder what would happen if the West actually developed enough backbone to really push back against Islamist Jihadism and let them know that over-the-top rhetoric, intimidation, riots, and murder would no longer be tolerated.
Fallaci continued posing indignant questions about the treatment of women in the new Islamic state. Why, she asked, did Khomeini compel women to “hide themselves, all bundled up,” when they had proved their equal stature by helping to bring about the Islamic revolution? Khomeini replied that the women who “contributed to the revolution were, and are, women with the Islamic dress”; they weren’t women like Fallaci, who “go around all uncovered, dragging behind them a tail of men.” A few minutes later, Fallaci asked a more insolent question: “How do you swim in a chador?” Khomeini snapped, “Our customs are none of your business. If you do not like Islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it. Because Islamic dress is for good and proper young women.” Fallaci saw an opening, and charged in. “That’s very kind of you, Imam. And since you said so, I’m going to take off this stupid, medieval rag right now.” She yanked off her chador.
In a recent e-mail, Fallaci said of Khomeini, “At that point, it was he who acted offended. He got up like a cat, as agile as a cat, an agility I would never expect in a man as old as he was, and he left me. In fact, I had to wait for twenty-four hours (or forty-eight?) to see him again and conclude the interview.” When Khomeini let her return, his son Ahmed gave Fallaci some advice: his father was still very angry, so she’d better not even mention the word “chador.” Fallaci turned the tape recorder back on and immediately revisited the subject. “First he looked at me in astonishment,” she said. “Total astonishment. Then his lips moved in a shadow of a smile. Then the shadow of a smile became a real smile. And finally it became a laugh. He laughed, yes. And, when the interview was over, Ahmed whispered to me, ‘Believe me, I never saw my father laugh. I think you are the only person in this world who made him laugh.’ ”