Who is Suzan Hadad?

Liliane Khalil, the "veteran" Middle East journalist whose real identity is being questioned, appears to have had an earlier incarnation as Suzan Hadad, "a journalist located in Atlanta, Georgia".

Marc Owen Jones, the PHD student investigating the mystery, has discovered a tweet by Liliane earlier this year in which she says:

"In a piece I wrote for CNN in 2009 'Day Nine in #Tehran,' I interviewed a #Basiji who called me an agent of the West."

Although this might suggest that Liliane Khalil was employed or commissioned by CNN, in fact the article was only posted in iReport, a user-generated section of CNN's website. A note there explains: "The stories in this section are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they are posted." The same article also appears in a few other places on the internet, including this one.

The strangest thing, though, is that despite Liliane Khalil's claim on Twitter that she wrote it, the author's name is given in the article as Suzan Hadad, not Liliane Khalil. A biographical note says Suzan Hadad has "provided foreign correspondence from Jerusalem, Cairo and Baghdad". However, a Google search reveals no other published articles by "Suzan Hadad" – so she is as much of a mystery as Liliane Khalil.

The Tehran article is dated 22 June 2009 – during the protests after Iran's disputed presidential election – and at first glance appears to be a dispatch from the Iranian capital. But on a closer look, there is nothing in its content to indicate that the writer was on the ground in Iran. All its information could have been gleaned from sources readily available in the west, and Khalil/Hadad's interview with the basiji (revolutionary guard) was conducted via Yahoo.

So, just when it was beginning to appear that Liliane Khalil might be a one-off fantasist, we now have Suzan Hadad too. Both have written dodgy stuff about the Middle East, both have strong connections with Atlanta, Georgia, and both have CVs that are almost entirely blank.

NOTE: Joseph Mayton of the Biyka Masr website (where Liliane Khalil held the unpaid title of "contributing editor") has asked me to draw attention to the statement he issued. "Once the controversy over this Liliane Khalil situation became known to us, we detailed [the] information we had and severed all ties with her," he said. It is understood that Liliane Khalil corresponded with Bikya Masr by email and never met anyone from the website face-to-face.