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Remembering the brave and beautiful Marie Colvin 1956-2012

“Our mission is to speak the truth to power. We send home that first rough draft of history. We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians.” Marie Colvin

Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin was killed by shellfire in the Syrian city of Homs on February 22nd. She was 56-years-old. Reporting on the horrific depredations being inflicted on the Syrian people, she described how she saw a baby die of shrapnel wounds in her final report before she was killed. She was the only British newspaper journalist inside the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr when Syrian forces attacked the makeshift press centre where she was working.  French photographer Remi Ochlik was killed with her.

Full of warmth, humor and compassion, Marie Colvin was a larger than life personality who dazzled everyone she met. Her generous spirit and lust for life never failed to make an impact which is why the shocking news of her death hit people who knew her so hard.
Her uniquely compelling coverage of events ensured that the suffering of the voiceless oppressed was heard and not reduced to unaccountable statistics. She was committed to exposing the horrific reality of genocide and the brutality of despotic regimes.
A testament to her bravery, Marie lost her left eye when she was wounded in a hand-grenade attack in Sri Lanka by government forces against the Tamil Tigers and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder for a year. For over 30 years, Marie had worked unceasingly to show the grim truth of conflict zones in Bosnia, Afghanistan, East Timor and many other war zones.
For her outstanding coverage of conflict, Marie Colvin drew rapturous and unqualified praise from her peers. “Marie was an extraordinary figure in the life of The Sunday Times,driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered. She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice,” said John Witherow, editor of The Sunday Times.
Through her bravery, she preempted a massacre in East Timor in 1999 when the UN were preparing to pull out of a compound where some 1,500 women and children had sought refuge from Indonesian militia forces.  Refusing to leave them to their fate, Marie was the only journalist to have remained. Realising that Marie would undoubtedly inform the world of the UN’s abandonment of these helpless civilians, the UN decided to stay on rather than incur international embarrassment. A few days later the women and children were evacuated to safety.
“Marie was one of the bravest journalists I have ever met. She always seemed to stay in the most dangerous place in every conflict and stay there longer than anyone to expose the horrors of war. Her death was a tragedy,” said Michael Georgy, Reuters Bureau Chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
She was an unstinting supporter of the Palestinian cause and in 1990 she produced Arafat: Behind the Myth for the BBC.

Born in Long Island, New York, Marie immersed herself in the world of international journalism after graduating from Yale University. With a determination to expose the ravages of war, she quickly distinguished herself for her dauntless disposition and courage in covering some of the most volatile places inflamed with conflict.
Despite having achieved fame and winning numerous accolades, she was always down-to-earth.  A wonderful storyteller, I remember her telling me all about her passion for sailing and the many adventures she experienced at sea when she was having dinner at my home in Islamabad. Effortlessly stylish and glamorous, she was utterly compelling with her thick blonde hair and  her trademark eye patch.

Though danger was an inescapable part of the work she did, she loved life. In London she would love to go out to her favourite restaurants and bars. Marie was also a founding member of London’s iconic Frontline Club. She was able to connect with people from all parts of the world, from all walks of life. “Marie’s natural ability to engage with people was drawn from a warm and wide heart that bore its own burden of sorrows,” wrote The Times foreign correspondent Anthony Loyd.
“She always lit up the room”, said Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist.Acclaimed author Helen Fielding describes how Marie stood out as a loyal and caring friend, “It was such fun and such a privilege being Marie’s friend because she was at once the fearless, committed, globally distinguished war correspondent, and at the same time a total girl’s girl. She really cared about her friends. She was kind. She made time for us, she listened, she cheered us up and let us cheer her up. And she would always laugh — especially at herself.”
Henry Porter in Vanity Fair bears eloquent testimony to her star quality, “At parties she was always among the most dramatically dressed, and she shone with good humor and the love of her friends, of which there were hundreds.”
Marie Colvin will always be an enduring symbol of unparalleled courage and compassion. Her significant body of work will always serve as a blistering indictment against war, tyranny and injustice.

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