'Household Name Among Palestinians': The Life of Al Jazeera's Shireen Abu Akleh

The veteran Al Jazeera journalist was shot dead in city of Jenin during an Israeli raid in the West Bank.

3 min read
Edited By :Saundarya Talwar

"The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen … there was no Palestinian military resistance at all at the scene."

That's how an Al Jazeera journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, who was also wounded at the scene, described the last moments of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who had worked for Al Jazeera for 25 years.

The shooting happened in Jenin during an Israeli raid in the West Bank, and she was rushed to the hospital in critical condition where she was declared dead on arrival.

Al Jazeera has asserted that 51-year-old Akleh was shot deliberately and "in cold blood" by Israeli forces while she was covering the unrest in Jenin.

In a heartfelt tribute, residents laid flowers on the roadside as a vehicle carried the body of Akleh towards Nablus, where an autopsy was scheduled to be conducted before her burial in Jerusalem, from where she hails.

But who was Shireen Abu Akleh and how did she become the voice of Palestinians?


'To be Close to the People'

Shireen Abu Akleh covered the Gaza wars of 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021, and she even reported on the jailbreak of six Palestinians who escaped in September 2021 from one of the Israel's most secure jails via a tunnel, overnight.

She even reported on major events across the Arab region, including the war in Lebanon in 2006.

"I chose journalism to be close to the people," Abu Akleh said in one video. "It may be difficult to change reality, but at least I managed to bring that voice to the world."

At the time of her killing, according to Al Jazeera, she had been studying and trying to learn Hebrew to better understand the narratives of the Palestine conflict in the Israeli media. She had also recently obtained a diploma in digital media.

After her death, both The New York Times and NPR called her as "a household name" among Palestinians.

Her live reporting made her an inspiration to many who wanted to emulate her, said Dalia Hatuqa, another Palestinian-American journalist and friend of Abu Akleh's, reported NYT.

"I know of a lot of girls who grew up basically standing in front of a mirror and holding their hair brushes and pretending to be Shireen. That’s how lasting and important her presence was."

Early Stages of Shireen Abu Akleh's Career

Born in 1971 in Jerusalem to Catholic Arab Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem, Abu Akleh studied journalism in Yarmouk University in Jordan, obtaining her bachelor's degree in the print journalism.

She then worked as a journalist for several organisations like Radio Monte Carlo, Voice of Palestine (a radio station based in Ramallah) and Amman Satellite Channel.

Before moving on to Al Jazeera, she also worked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

East Jerusalem is where she resided and worked from, reporting on major events with respect to Palestine.

One of her most important coverages was of the Second Intifada (the second major Palestinian uprising against Israel that occurred between 2000 and 2005).

She also covered Israeli politics and often reported on the funerals of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces.

Now she herself is allegedly a victim of those same forces, despite wearing a jacket that clearly depicted her as being a part of the "PRESS."

Tamer Al-Meshal, who was working with Abu Akleh till the last moment before she was shot, told Al Jazeera, "The last message Shireen Abu Akleh sent to Al Jazeera was via email at 6:13 am in which she wrote: 'Occupation forces storm Jenin and besiege a house in the Jabriyat neighbourhood. On the way there, I will bring you news as soon as the picture becomes clear.'"

"We and the viewers did not know that this news she sent would be the news of her martyrdom," he added.

(With inputs from Al Jazeera, NYT, and NPR.)

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Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
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