Remembering Shireen Abu Akleh
THE REALITIES OF life - and death - in the occupied Palestinian territories burst into the heart of the British journalism Establishment in a beautiful and moving memorial in June for Shireen Abu Akleh. The service at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street - the "journalists' church" - celebrated the life and work of Shireen, the Palestinians' "voice to the world" in 24 years of reporting for Al Jazeera. Shireen was shot dead in Jenin on 11 May by a sniper in the army of the State of Israel.
Shireen's family are from the Palestinian Christian Melkite Church. The service was multi-denominational and featured addresses and song in Arabic. It was initiated by former London Freelance Branch chair Pennie Quinton, supported by Artists for Palestine, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK and London Freelance Branch.
The Reverend Alison Joyce said that "When a precious human being is brutally shot dead, we share your outrage... But we are here to give thanks for Shireen's life and work. We are here to help ensure that her name – and the names of the other journalists who have been killed covering Israel and Palestine are never, ever forgotten." During the service, a minute's silence remembered 46 journalists killed in the occupied Palestinian territories since 2000.
Lina Abu Akleh, Shireen's niece, sent a video message. "Shireen was the voice of Palestine... She went to every corner of Palestine and she covered every angle of Palestine."
Ali Samoudi, a journalist who was working with Shireen on 11 May, was shot in the back – and survived. He told the congregation, "I've known Shireen for over 20 years. I remember her for her courage and her love. She was a true professional."
Dr Nadia Nasser Najjab said of Shireen, "She was a role model for young Palestinian women. When we met in Palestine we were constantly interrupted by young Palestinian girls who wanted to say that they wanted to be like her."
At a reception after the service, Rhys Davis, a barrister at Temple Garden Chambers, discussed legal remedies including the International Criminal Court, where complaints have already been launched by the International Federation of Journalists and by Al Jazeera. "To deliberately target a journalist in these circumstances is a war crime," he said.
Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director of Human Rights Watch, said: "Every time there is another death of a journalist it takes away something from our hearts and our souls - justice for Shireen and for all will be forever at the top of our agenda."