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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Former Seattle P-I reporter is missing in Syria


    Dorothy Parvaz, a former reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is missing in Syria.

    Parvaz, 39, was working for Al-Jazeera news service when she disappeared in the Syrian capital of Damascus after flying there from Doha, Qatar, on 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.””

    Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has made a formal inquiry to the State Department asking for help in locating Parvaz, who officials suspect may have been snatched at the Damascus airport.

    Larry Johnson, who worked with Parvaz at the P-I, said he is working with people to contact Syrian officials in Washington, D.C., to try to bring about her safe return.

    Johnson, who was a foreign editor at the P-I and went to Syria twice for the newspaper, said Parvaz was in Damascus to help cover protests in Syria. She had just returned fromJapan, where she was covering the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

    Johnson said he worked with Parvaz for about 10 years at the P-I.

    “”She was a good reporter and a hard worker,”” he said. “”She’s pretty tough. The fact it’s been two days 1/8since she disappeared3/8 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 that he last spoke to her Thursday.

    “”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 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.””

    Barker said this was Parvaz’s 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 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 P-I 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,”” Copeland said. “”She’s as determined a reporter as anyone I’ve known. She wanted to be on the front lines.””

    He said Parvaz’s father is Iranian, her mother American, and she grew up in British Columbia. She graduated from the University of British Columbia. Parvaz also briefly worked for The Seattle Times in 1999. Melanie McFarland, another friend who worked with Parvaz at the P-I and at The Times, said she spoke to Parvaz a week ago and that she said she had requested to go to Syria.

    “”She’s the bravest person I know,”” McFarland said. “”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 P-I editorial-page editor who hired Parvaz and said he exchanges emails with her frequently. “”She’s a remarkable journalist, fluent in Arabic and Farsi and knows the culture extremely well.””

    Parvaz joined Al-Jazeera in 2010, editors said.

    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.

    Mohamed Abdel DayemMiddle East and North Africa Program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 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,”” Dayem said.

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

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