As a war reporter, Marie Colvin chased death to expose the reality of war and violence to civilians. She was well-known for her ‘outrageous’ bravery, diving headfirst into killing zones and dangerous situations at the risk of her own life – a streak of daring that, while a common expectation for those in the field, Colvin pushed to the extremes. In the seven years since her death in February 2012 – when the home she was staying in came under mortar attack by Assad forces – several books and films have come forth to honor and give a portrait of her life. Colvin passed away at the age of 56, with the final moments leading to her death a culmination of all she had fought against in her career.
Interestingly, Colvin’s death shed an ironic light on Assad’s PR praise for Asma al-Assad in a glowing article (“A Rose in the Desert”) in Vogue magazine that same year. Mrs. Assad, who was described as “intelligent, fun and breezy,” and with Bashar al-Assad was praised for being “wildly democratic,” was regarded as a rose in the desert. In fact, it was Marie Colvin who had been in Baba Amr, the native city of Asma al-Assad’s family and one of Homs’ central suburbs, putting her life on the line to bring the world’s attention to civilian stories, who more fittingly represented the “rose in the desert.”
In a London gathering to commemorate reporters who lost their lives in the field, Colvin said, “We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story… What is bravery, and what is bravado?” according to Ed Vulliamy in the New York Review of Books. Colvin often referred back to her famous motto, “it’s what we do,” when describing her work and the very real risk of death. She pursued civilian’s stories, focusing on the victims of war rather than politics or military strategy. In 2012, while covering the Siege of Homs, (dubbed as the capital of the Syrian Revolution), Colvin illegally crossed into Baba Amr twice, leaving the first time to file her story with the Sunday Times, and fatally returning once more without telling her foreign editor or friends. She had traveled for two-and-a-half miles through a drainage tunnel just over four feet high in order to tell the stories of 28,000 starving families in the besieged city. The night before she was killed, Lindsey Hilsum, a friend and fellow journalist, interviewed Colvin over Skype from London for the Channel 4 News. Hilsum reflected, later, as cited by Charlotte Tobitt in the British newspaper Press Gazette, that Colvin “felt a huge commitment to tell that story and she felt that by leaving she was in some way abandoning the people of Baba Amr and that was surrendering to the narrative of the Syrian Government which said there were only terrorists in the enclave of Baba Amr and there were no civilians. Marie felt that she had to be there to report that that was a lie.”...Without a doubt, Colvin had spent every living moment fighting for civilians’ voices to be heard and shedding light on the injustices against them. Even her death left reverberating messages of the violence of war on innocents. And although she may have died nearly a decade ago, the issues she fought for are very much prevalent today.” (These edited excerpts are from “Marie Colvin: The Real “Rose in the Desert,” Iconic, Storied Reporter Faithfully Depicted the Human Cost of War.”
This major feature is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming issue of Al Jadid, Vol. 23, No. 76, 2019).
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