For Leila

I won’t pretend to have been the best of friends with Leila Alaoui. I met her 3 years ago in Beirut after becoming acquainted with her art. Each of those occasions was a splendid one, it’s rare to meet new people and actually enjoy a conversation with them these days, much less learn something new about places you’ve never been to. It’s also rarer to make genuine friends like that, people you look up to and admire. Leila was exactly that person.

Living in this part of the world, each of us has lost a friend or loved one or idol or mentor to senseless violence by cowardly hands. Most of the people I grew up reading and getting guidance from had their lives and missions ended abruptly with a bomb or bullets.

Leila’s murder by Al Qaeda last week in Burkina Faso hit many of her friends in Beirut and around the world like a ton of bricks. Many of us venture to dangerous places to get the story and tell it to the world, knowing full well the dangers involved when going into conflict zones. That makes the fact that Leila perished while on assignment with Amnesty International’s “My Body, My Rights” women’s right campaign in somewhere we wouldn’t expect such an attack to happen, so much harder to accept.

It’s also a brutally painful reminder that nowhere in the world is safe. Whether it’s Burj El Brajneh, Paris, San Bernadino, Bamako, Aleppo or Baghdad, good people will always pay the ultimate price for the good work they do. It is also a brutally painful reminder of how important Leila’s work is to counter that violent extremism and show the true face of . Work that celebrates and highlights the value of diversity in our societies and the hardships of migration, whether in her home country of Morocco, Lebanon and many other places around the world.

I came across this tribute song for Leila by Rayess Bek on my newsfeed today. I hope you remember fond memories of Leila, her fantastic work and the mark she left in this world while you listen to this melancholic tribute. Here’s what she said after the Paris November attacks at the Paris biennial…

“Given what happened last week, there’s a lot to be done to show that the Arab world is not just Islamic State,” she said. “This biennial plays an even more important role now. What is great is that for the first time you’re not seeing cliches of the Arab world but the diversity

Leila, I’m glad to have been lucky enough to meet you.

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