MARIE COLVIN A HERO IN LIFE AND DEATH
By Vincent Lyn
Marie Catherine Colvin (January 12, 1956 — February 22, 2012) was an American journalist who worked as a foreign affairs correspondent for the British newspaper The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death. She died while covering the Siege of Homs in Syria.
Yesterday for the 9 year anniversary of her death I watched the Eventbrite premiere of the harrowing documentary “Under the Wire”. Paul Conroy photo journalist who was traveling with Marie Colvin to Syria tells the gut-wrenching story of civilians trapped in Homs, a city under siege and relentless military attack from the Syrian army. A must watch.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Marie reported from the front lines of war zones around the world and was renowned for her bravery, her tenacity, her skill and her compassion. She received many awards and honors during her career, including the Courage in Journalism Award, the British Press Award and Foreign Press International’s Journalist of the Year Award. Many have called her the “greatest war correspondent of her generation.”
Specializing in the Middle East, she also covered conflicts in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and East Timor. In 1999 in East Timor, she was credited with saving the lives of 1,500 women and children from a compound besieged by Indonesian-backed forces. Refusing to abandon them, she stayed with a U.N. Force, reporting in her newspaper and on television. They were evacuated after four days.
Colvin lost the sight in her left eye while reporting on the Sri Lankan Civil War. She was struck by a blast from a Sri Lankan Army rocket-propelled grenade(RPG) on April 16, 2001, while crossing from a Tamil Tigers-controlled area to a Government-controlled area; thereafter she wore a black eye-patch, which became her trademark and her badge of honor. She was attacked even after calling out “journalist, journalist!” Despite sustaining serious injuries, Colvin, who was 44 at the time, managed to write a 3,000 word article on time to meet the deadline. She had walked over 30 miles (48 km) through the Vanni jungle with her Tamil guides to evade government troops; she reported on the humanitarian disaster in the northern Tamil region, including a government blockade of food, medical supplies and prevention of foreign journalist access to the area for six years to cover the war. Colvin later suffered PTSD and required hospitalization following her injuries.
She was also a witness and an intermediary during the final days of the war in Sri Lanka and reported on war crimes against Tamils that were committed during this phase. Several days after her wounding, the Sri Lankan government said it would allow foreign journalists to travel in rebel-held zones. The director of Government information, Ariya Rubasinghe, stated that: “Journalists can go, we have not debarred them, but they must be fully aware of and accept the risk to their lives.”
In 2011, while reporting on the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, she was offered an opportunity to interview Gaddafi again, along with two other journalists that she could nominate. For Gaddafi’s first international interview since the start of the war, Colvin took along Christiane Amanpour of ABC News and Jeremy Bowen of BBC News.
Colvin noted the importance of shining a light on “humanity in extremes, pushed to the unendurable”, stating: “My job is to bear witness. I have never been interested in knowing what make of plane had just bombed a village or whether the artillery that fired at it was 120mm or 155mm.”In February 2012, Colvin crossed into Syria on the back of a motorcycle, ignoring the Syrian government’s attempts to prevent foreign journalists from entering Syria to cover the Syrian Civil War without permission. Colvin was stationed in the western Baba Amr district of the city of Homs, and made her last broadcast on the evening of February 21, appearing on the BBC, Channel 4, CNN and ITN News via satellite phone. She described “merciless” shelling and sniper attacks against civilian buildings and people on the streets of Homs by Syrian forces. Speaking to Anderson Cooper, Colvin described the bombardment of Homs as the worst conflict she had ever experienced.
Colvin died on February 22, alongside photojournalist Remi Ochlik. An autopsy conducted in Damascus by the Syrian government concluded Marie Colvin was killed by an “improvised explosive device filled with nails.” The Syrian government claims the explosive device was planted by terrorists on February 22, 2012, while fleeing an unofficial media building, which was being shelled by the Syrian Army. This account was rejected by photographer Paul Conroy, who was with Colvin and Ochlik and survived the attack. Conroy recalled that Colvin and Ochlik were packing their gear when Syrian artillery fire hit their media centre.
Journalist Jean-Pierre Perrin and other sources reported that the building had been targeted by the Syrian Army, identified using satellite phone signals. Their team had been planning an exit strategy a few hours prior. On the evening of February 22, 2012, people of Homs mourned in the streets in honor of Colvin and Ochlik. Tributes were paid to Colvin across the media industry and political world following her death.
Colvin’s funeral took place in Oyster Bay, New York, on March 12, 2012, in a service attended by 300 mourners including those who had followed her dispatches, friends and family. She was cremated and half of her ashes were scattered off Long Island, and the other half on the River Thames, near her last home.
In July 2016, Cat Colvin Marie’s sister filed a civil action against the government of the Syrian Arab Republic for extrajudicial killing claiming she had obtained proof that the Syrian government had directly ordered Colvin’s targeted assassination. In April 2018, the accusations were revealed on court papers filed by her family. In January 2019, an American court ruled that the Syrian government was liable for Colvin’s death and ordered that they pay $300m in punitive damages. The judgement stated that Colvin was “specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country. The murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide. A targeted murder of an American citizen, whose courageous work was not only important, but vital to our understanding of war zones and of wars generally, is outrageous, and therefore a punitive damages award that multiples the impact on the responsible state is warranted.”
Marie Colvin herself best explained her reason for covering wars. “My job is to bear witness. I have never been interested in knowing what make of plane had just bombed a village.” She wrote about people suffering the effects of war so that others might understand the truth and take action to promote peace and compassion.
Marie Colvin a woman of divine descent a true heroine. R.I.P
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency