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London memorial pays tribute to life, work of veteran journalist Abu Akleh

By Madeline Elmitt - Jun 30,2022 - Last updated at Jun 30,2022

LONDON — “She wasn’t the first journalist to be killed and she won’t be the last, but I want to be as hopeful as she was throughout her life,” these were the words of Lina Abu Akleh, niece of the late Shireen Abu Akleh  during the memorial held in her honour in London on Tuesday. 

Tucked away in the heart of the capital in St Bride’s Church, journalists, ambassadors, human rights activists and acquaintances congregated to celebrate the life of the Palestinian journalist who was shot dead on May 11 while covering an Israeli occupation force raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.

The venue has been a pillar of journalism since 1501, remaining faithful to the profession up to this day; hosting vigils for journalists such as Britain’s longest-held captive John Mccarthy during the hostage crisis in Lebanon in the 1980s and 90s. 

The memorial brought together people of all faiths and professions, shocked by the “unbelievable tragedy” of Abu Akleh’s death, as described by British politician Jeremy Corbyn. 

“We are here to commemorate the lives of Shireen and other journalists speaking up for the inalienable rights of press freedom,” Corbyn told The Jordan Times. 

Jewish comedian Ivor Dembina, who performs regularly in the West Bank, noted the “simple, truthful and moving” nature of the ceremony. 

Various friends and family members of the prominent Al Jazeera reporter shared personal recollections of the journalist who as described by her niece, Lina Abu Akleh, was “the voice for Palestine for over 35 years”. 

Against the backdrop of the holy city, Abu Akleh’s friend and colleague Najwan Simri described in a tearful video recording how throughout her career Abu Akleh had “shattered stereotypes of female journalists” by reporting in conflict zones for Al Jazeera’s Arabic Channel for over 25 years. 

Her Palestinian origins were celebrated during the memorial, with words from national Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s “The Singer Said” (Qala Al Mughanni) sung by Reem Kelani accompanied on the piano by Bruno Heinen. 

The ceremony also featured an oud performance by the award-winning Egyptian-Australian musician Joseph Tawadros, who told The Jordan Times how it was “a heartfelt memorial which celebrated the life of an amazing human who made a difference to so many people’s lives”.

“Shireen may be gone, but the seed of good she has sown in Palestine and Jerusalem continues to grow,” said Samoudi. 


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