Niece of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in May, tells ‘The National’ what recognition means as family fights for justice
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Time magazine has featured Lina Abu Akleh, the niece of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, on an annual list of 100 emerging leaders.
Palestinian-American journalist Shireen was killed in May during an Israeli raid in the West Bank in May, while on assignment. International investigations have verified the shooter was likely an Israeli soldier.
The Time100 Next list highlights “the emerging leaders from around the world who are shaping the future and defining the next generation of leadership”.
Shireen’s niece was featured this year for her work as “the face of an international campaign to demand accountability from Israel”, Time magazine said.
“Having been featured with regards to our campaign for justice for Shireen, I think is really important, because it’s not just about me,” Ms Abu Akleh told The National.
“It’s also about the cause and the reason why I made it there.”
Since her aunt’s killing, Ms Abu Akleh has tirelessly led the “Justice For Shireen” campaign — which has entailed meetings with US and international politicians, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and even recently submitting a complaint to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, demanding accountability for the killing.
It’s been 100 days since my beloved aunt Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by an Israeli soldier. It’s been 100 days without meaningful action from the US government. My family’s demands remain the same: launch a US investigation that leads to accountability. #JusticeForShireen pic.twitter.com/zOIZRgmK5F
— Lina Abu Akleh (@LinaAbuAkleh) August 19, 2022
For Ms Abu Akleh, being the lone Palestinian on this year’s list, and receiving recognition before a primarily-western audience is an important moment for the wider Palestinian cause.
“It just shows that Palestinians are being recognised for their work, for their efforts, for demanding justice and calling for accountability. Not just for what happened to my aunt, but in general for what’s happening to the Palestinians who are living under occupation,” she said.
“I feel so honoured. And I’m very proud to be featured there as a Palestinian, female Christian on the list…It shows we cannot be silenced.”
This year’s list includes artists such as American R&B star SZA, Pakistani singer-songwriter Ali Sethi and Indonesian climate activist Farwiza Farhan.
Ms Abu Akleh said she found out she made the list over email while she was surrounded by family.
“It was honestly one of the [few] happy moments in the past five months, it was definitely a silver lining. It gave me a push, and gave me more strength to continue fighting,” Ms Abu Akleh said.
That recognition, she said, is more than personal motivation. It has helped to keep Shireen Abu Akleh’s voice, the Palestinian struggle, and the work for press freedoms at the fore.
“Shireen was one of the first Arab, female, field reporters, soo featuring me with regards to my aunt is important because it shows that journalists’ associations and important news outlets are recognising her work and her efforts, and shedding light on the importance of the safety of journalists,” she said.
“This helps with continuing the momentum. It informs readers of the importance of continuing to talk about Shireen, because I know, it’s really important for me that the story doesn’t die out, it keeps the story alive.”
Updated: September 29, 2022, 7:12 PM