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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Reporter is missing in Syria

SEATTLE — Dorothy Parvaz, a former reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Arizona Daily Wildcat arts editor, is missing in Syria.

Parvaz, 39, was working for al-Jazeera news service when she disappeared in Damascus after flying there from Doha Qahar last Friday.

“”We’ve demanded Syrians give us information,”” said Mark Orchard, al-Jazeera news editor. “”We’ve had no contact with Dorothy since she left for Damascus. We’re very concerned about her safety. We’ve requested full cooperation from authorities.””

Larry Johnson, who worked with Parvaz on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s editorial board, said he is working with people to get in touch with Syrian officials in Washington to try to bring about her safe return.

Johnson, who was a foreign editor at the Post-Intelligencer and went to Syria twice for the newspaper, said she was in Damascus to help cover protests in Syria. She had just returned from Japan where she was covering the aftermath of the earthquake there.

Johnson said he worked with Parvaz for about 10 years at the Post-Intelligencer. “”She was a good reporter and a hard worker,”” he said. “”She’s pretty tough. The fact it’s been two days (since she disappeared) is disturbing. The Syrian government has not responded at all, which is why people need to flood the Syrian embassy in D.C. with calls and emails. That sort of thing does work.””

Parvaz’s fiance, Todd Barker, said he usually speaks to her several times a day, and he last spoke to her Thursday when she said she was going to Syria.

“”Dorothy is a global citizen,”” Barker said. She is an American, Canadian and Iranian citizen and holds passports from each country. Because Americans and Canadians need visas to visit Syria but Iranians don’t, she was traveling on her Iranian passport, he said.

Barker said the U.S. Embassy in Damascus confirmed that she did not check into her hotel there. “”We’ve had no confirmation from the Syrian government about anything,”” he said. “”The working theory is she is being held by the Syrian government and she wasn’t allowed to enter Syria.””

He said this was her first trip to Syria, but she wasn’t nervous. “”Dorothy Parvaz is a fighter, she’s tough. This is what she wanted to do,”” said Barker, who works for Amazon in Luxembourg. “”She looks at journalism as a force of justice and peace in the world. I’m ripped up and can’t sleep, but I will not rest until I know that Dorothy is safe.””

Joe Copeland, a former Post-Intelligencer editorial writer and columnist who now works at Crosscut, also is a friend of Parvaz’s. “”She’s bold and fearless and knows how to handle herself in a tough situation,”” he said. “”She’s as determined a reporter as anyone I’ve known. She wanted to be on the front lines.””

Copeland said Parvaz’s father is Iranian, her mother American, and she grew up in British Columbia.

Melanie McFarland, another friend who worked with Parvaz at the Post-Intelligencer and briefly at The Seattle Times, said she spoke to her a week ago, and Parvaz told McFarland she had requested to go to Syria. “”She’s the bravest person I know,”” said McFarland. “”This is what she really wanted to do, since the beginning of her career. It’s one of those things, in your blood.””

McFarland said Parvaz had hoped to go to Libya and was disappointed when a different reporter was sent.

“”I’m terribly worried,”” said Mark Trahant, former editorial-page editor at the Post-Intelligencer who hired Parvaz for the editorial page. “”She’s a remarkable journalist, fluent in Arabic and Farsi and knows the culture extremely well.””

He said they frequently exchange emails, and when she was in Japan he told her to be careful there.

According to al-Jazeera, they’ve had no contact with Parvaz since she flew on a Qatar Airways flight to Damascus.

They said Parvaz joined al-Jazeera in 2010. She graduated from the University of British Columbia.

According to al-Jazeera, a wave of uprisings against authoritarian regimes across North Africa and the Middle East has prompted fears for the safety of reporters sent to cover conflicts in the region. Media organizations, including al-Jazeera, have been restricted in Syria from reporting what’s described as an increasingly violent crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters.

“”We demand the government of Syria look into this case,”” said Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister, when asked about Parvaz’s case.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, told al-Jazeera there was “”strong evidence”” to suggest Parvaz had been detained at the Damascus airport.

“”Obviously we are worried for the safety of Dorothy, specifically, as we are for numerous other journalists who are in government custody right now,”” said Dayem.

He said up to a couple of dozen journalists had been detained in Syria since the current unrest began in mid-March.

Some Syrian journalists working for Syrian and regional outlets had been in custody for weeks, he said.

“”Dorothy’s detention is really just the latest episode in an effort by the Syrian government to institute a media blackout,”” said Dayem.

“”It seems as if the government now considers the journalists as much of a problem as the actual social unrest.””


(c) 2011, The Seattle Times.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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