Amid the atrocities being committed by the Syrian army against its own civilian population was the death of an American journalist unknown to most Americans. Marie Colvin was a war reporter for the Sunday Times of London, murdered by Syrian troops hours after she phoned into CNN to tell Anderson Cooper of the massacre going on around her in the Syrian city of Homs.
Colvin’s tragic death in the line of duty confirms to the world that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is committing atrocities against his own population and thus must be brought to justice because of this.
Colvin was reporting the death of a baby in Homs that resulted from the near non-stop shelling of the city by the Syrian army, a siege the Syrian government has denied they are doing. The Syrian government says it is chasing after armed terrorists, and Colvin instead said “it’s a complete and utter lie.” The only people in the city with weapons had Kalashnikovs and rocket propelled grenades and were outnumbered, outgunned and did not stand a chance, Colvin said.
“Every civilian house on this street has been hit,” said Colvin. “The top floor of the building I'm in has been hit, in fact, totally destroyed. There are no military targets here.”
Colvin’s report started with a description of how the baby died after his chest was hit with shrapnel “his little tummy heaving and heaving as he tried to breathe. It was horrific. My heart broke.”
Colvin’s reporting was valuable, as it vividly confirmed what the rest of the world already knew: that the Syrian army is committing atrocities against its own people. Earlier in the week, Syria’s government threatened to “kill any journalist who set foot on Syrian soil.”
Earlier in the week Colvin’s final report for the Times was titled “We Live in Fear of a Massacre.” It detailed how people hiding from military action in the city were barely surviving, and in many cases dying. It opened with as sad a story as one could possibly imagine: 17 people hiding in a room after their house was shelled, living on sugar and water for two days. A husband of one of the victims went to look for food and never came back, “He was torn to pieces by a mortar shell.” Her brother died alongside him.
The article details how snipers are camped on top of a university and picking off civilians like deer in the woods. How the army is opening fire on any car it sees, including Colvin’s. “The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror.”
According to another article in the Times, Colvin was likely killed by a rocket propelled grenade fired directly at her and her photographer as they emerged from a make-shift press center that had been hit by a shell. It is speculated in this article that Colvin was specifically targeted because of her final few reports on crimes against humanity by the Syrian military. “Syrians, including Mr. Assad, would have been able to watch Colvin's broadcasts – a fact that could have sealed her fate.”
Colvin said the following in a memorial to fallen reporters in 2010: “Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction and death … trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes, or terrorists clash.” She added, “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.”
As journalists in Homs became concerned that the Syrian military had locked on to their position through their satellite phone signals, many, including Colvin left the area. Still, Colvin heroically returned to Homs as bombs, RPGs and anti-aircraft artillery rained down on the city because she felt the primary assault by the Syrian military had not yet occurred. She wanted to make a difference to change the lives of the suffering residents of Homs by telling their story.
Colvin’s reporting was indispensible and proved to the world one underlining fact: It’s time for Bashar al-Assad to face justice for his army’s war crimes.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons