Expert Profile

Ms Souad Mekhennet
Position(s) Correspondent, Washington Post
Twitter smekhennet

Ms Souad Mekhennet is an Executive-in-Residence within the Global Fellowship Initiative of the GCSP. Ms Souad Mekhennet is an Associate Fellow within the Global Fellowship Initiative of the GCSP. Souad Mekhennet is an award-winning journalist who was born in Germany and grew up there and in Morocco. She is a correspondent for The Washington Post’s national security desk and has also reported on terrorism for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Der Spiegel, NPR, and others. She is the author of I Was Told To Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, which was named a best book of 2017 by The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The Christian Science Monitor, and which won the 2018 Nannen Prize, the foremost accolade for journalists in Germany. She is the co-author of three other books: The Eternal Nazi, Children of Jihad, and Islam. Mekhennet has spent more than twenty years developing sources and expertise in terrorism and is considered among the best reporters on this subject in the world, as an editor at The Washington Post put it, “Her level of understanding and access is pretty much unmatched.” In 2019, she was awarded the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s International Leadership Award for her national security reporting on issue of extremism, radicalization, and terrorism; at 42-years old, she was the youngest person and the first person of Muslim descent to win that prize. In 2018, she was awarded the Stern magazine editorial board’s special prize, as part of the Nannen Prize series, one of Germany’s most prestigious awards in journalism, for her reporting on terrorism. Also that year, she won the Ludwig Borne Prize, one of the most esteemed literary prizes across German-speaking countries. And in 2017, the Chicago Journalists Association chose her to receive the 2017 Daniel Pearl Award. She has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a visiting fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Policy at Harvard, and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the New America Foundation and the Geneva Center for Security Policy. for her reporting on the rise of extremism and terrorist groups. In 2015, Mekhennet and a team of Washington Post reporters received a citation from the Overseas Press Club award for stories about the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and their effect on security in the region. In 2014, King Mohammed IV of Morocco gave her a medal for journalistic achievement; she was also named a Young Global Leader at the 2014 World Economic Forum. She has been named one of Germany’s top three reporters, and received a German TV award for co-authoring the documentary, “9/11: The Day that Changed the World.” Mekhennet established her career by focusing on investigative pieces that require tracking down obscure and sometimes dangerous sources and winning their trust. She covered the war in Iraq for the Post and NPR, writing about radical Shia and Sunni groups, and winning the same excellent access in Fallujah and other radical Sunni strongholds as she did at the holiest Shia sites. For the New York Times series “Inside the Jihad,” Mekhennet and Times reporter Michael Moss covered militancy not only from the ground, but also from within. Mekhennet became the only Western journalist to interview Shakir al-Abssi, the leader of Fatah al Islam, who had been sentenced in absentia for his role in the killing of a U.S diplomat in Amman. She and Moss would also become the first journalists to interview the leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdal. Mekhennet and Moss ultimately determined that the risk of meeting Droukdal in person would be too great, but they managed to send him written questions and received an audio recording of his answers, which was verified by a private voice expert who works for federal agencies. After they published their story about the growth of AQIM, Droukdal sent Mekhennet a thank you note on Al Qaeda letterhead, expressing his gratitude that she had risked her life to get his side of the story. In 2009, following a tip from a source, Mekhennet tracked the former concentration camp doctor and Nazi war criminal Aribert Heim to Cairo, where he had converted to Islam and was living quietly in a working class neighborhood. She and Times reporter Nicholas Kulish then wrote a book about Heim, The Eternal Nazi, that was published in 2014. The Times called it “brilliantly narrated,” and Kirkus described it as “[h]aunting, doggedly researched.” Mekhennet was named a Young Global Leader (World Economic Forum), a "Young European Leader", and also a leader at the American Council on Germany, American council on Italy and a "Rising Talent"(Women's Forum).