Shireen Abu Akleh, Palestinian journalist, dies aged 51

JERUSALEM — Shireen Abu Akleh originally studied to be an architect but saw no future for herself in the field. She therefore decided t...


JERUSALEM — Shireen Abu Akleh originally studied to be an architect but saw no future for herself in the field. She therefore decided to take up journalism, becoming one of the most well-known Palestinian journalists.

“I chose journalism to be close to people,” she said in a short reel shared by Al Jazeera shortly after she was killed by gunfire in the West Bank on Wednesday. “It may not be easy to change reality, but at least I was able to make their voice heard in the world.”

A Palestinian American, Ms Abu Akleh, 51, was a familiar face on the Al Jazeera network, where she spent 25 years reporting, making a name for herself amid the violence of the Palestinian uprising known as the second Intifada, which rocked Israel and the occupation. West Bank from 2000.

She was shot in the head in the West Bank city of Jenin, Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Health Ministry said, blaming Israeli forces for his death. The Israeli army declared the Twitter that “Palestinian gunfire” could be responsible.

Mohammed Daraghmeh, the Ramallah bureau chief for the Arabic-language media Asharq Newswho had been friends with Ms. Abu Akleh for many years, said she remained determined to cover all issues affecting Palestinians, big and small.

He had last spoken to her two days earlier, he said on Wednesday, and told her that he did not believe the events in Jenin were significant enough for a journalist as experienced as her to be. covers.

“But she left anyway,” he said. “She covered the story as it should.”

It wasn’t the big or political stories that interested Ms Abu Akleh the most, but the smaller ones that showed how people lived, said Wessam Hammad, an Al Jazeera news producer who worked with her. for 17 years. He said she would see a story where others wouldn’t.

“Sometimes I was like, ‘No, Shireen forget that, it’s not a big story. “”, Did he declare. “But she was always thinking about so many different angles of how we could do that, and how can we make it a very human, very touching story about Palestinians that no other journalist would ever think of doing.”

Born in Jerusalem to a Catholic family, Ms. Abu Akleh studied in Jordan, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She spent time in the United States when she was younger and obtained US citizenship through her maternal family, who lived in New Jersey, friends and colleagues said.

Al Jazeera said that after graduating from university, she worked for several media outlets, including Voice of Palestine radio and Amman satellite channel, before joining Al Jazeera in 1997. She quickly became a household name among Palestinians and Arabs in the Middle East, inspiring many to follow his path.

Her live television reporting and endorsements became iconic for those who wanted to emulate her, said Dalia Hatuqa, a Palestinian American journalist and friend of Ms Abu Akleh.

“I know a lot of girls who grew up standing in front of a mirror and holding their hairbrushes and pretending to be Shireen,” Ms Hatuqa said. “That’s how enduring and important his presence was.”

Among them was his 27-year-old niece, Lina Abu Akleh. As a young girl, she would take her aunt’s written reports and recite them into her pink Barbie phone.

“I always said to her, ‘I don’t know if I have the courage and the strength that you have,’ and she said it’s not easy, it’s very hard work,” said Lina Abu Akleh.

Her death also illustrated the dangers Palestinian journalists face in carrying out their work, whether in the occupied West Bank, Gaza or inside Israel, she said.

In a 2017 interview with Palestinian TV station An-Najah NBC, she was asked if she had ever been afraid of being shot.

“Of course I’m scared,” she said. “At some point, you forget that fear. We don’t throw ourselves to death. We go there and try to figure out where we can fit in and how to protect the team with me before we think about how I’m going to get on screen and what I’m going to say.

Palestinian Authority Ambassador to Britain Husam Zomlot called her “the most prominent Palestinian journalist”.

The Abu Akleh family has become widely known in Palestinian society through Mrs. Abu Akleh.

“Everyone knows who Shireen is,” said her cousin, Fadi Abu Akleh. “Every time I show up, people ask me, ‘How is Shireen related to you?'”

She has lived in Ramallah, the West Bank and Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, she lived with her brother and his family, including two nieces and a nephew, to whom she was very devoted, her cousin said.

“She was my best friend, my second mom, my traveling companion,” Lina Abu Akleh said. “She was everything to me.”

Their last trip together was to New York to spend the Christmas holidays with relatives in the United States.

Ms. Abu Akleh recently spent several weeks in the United States, before returning to Ramallah about a month ago. But she never seems to have seriously thought about living in the United States, Mr Daraghmeh said.

Al Jazeera once sent her to the United States to work. After three months, she returned to Ramallah.

“When she came back, she said, ‘I can breathe now. Everything in the United States is technical and complicated,'” Mr. Daraghmeh recalled. want to stay here.'”

A state funeral procession was held Thursday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, departing from the presidential headquarters and attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

She will be buried Friday in Jerusalem in a cemetery next to her mother.

“Shireen was a pioneer,” Ms Hatuqa said. “I’m just sad that she’s not here to continue to lead in this industry.”

Raja Abdulrahim brought from Jerusalem, and Ben Hubbard from Doha, Qatar. Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Nazareth, Israel. Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Shireen Abu Akleh, Palestinian journalist, dies aged 51
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