Written by Julie Payne
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is deeply concerned by reports that have surfaced that Canadian journalist Khadija Abdul Qahaar may have died.
Qahaar had converted to the Islamic faith in April 2002, and is also known as Beverly Giesbrecht.
The 56-year old West Vancouver resident and publisher of the defunct Canadian web magazine “Jihad Unspun”, had been travelling in the volatile tribal regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan in November 2008, when she was kidnapped.
Canadian media sources today reported that Qahaar may have died “following a prolonged illness.” They site Indianexpress.com which in turn cites unnamed sources.
However, the Toronto Sun also reports that Canada’s Foreign Affairs department may still believe that Giesbrecht is alive. They quote Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Monette as saying “We will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts and endanger the safety of the individual involved. We continue to pursue all appropriate channels in seeking information with regard to Ms. Giesbrecht.”
On the other hand, CTV News reports that Qahaar’s long-time friend Glen Cooper has said “his gut feeling is that the reports are true.”
In November 2008, news came that Qahaar, along with her translator Salman Khan and driver Zar Muhammad, had been abducted from the mountainous region of North Waziristan in Pakistan where she had been travelling. According to her visa application, she was there to shoot a documentary for Al Jazeera. Indianexpress.com quoted Khan after his release in 2009 as saying that Qahar was suffering from hepatitis.
In early 2009, her captors began demanding a ransom and the release of prisoners in exchange for her freedom. Shortly after, a video appeared where Qahaar claimed she was being held by the Taliban, which was followed with a second video released in March 2009.
To date, over 75 journalists around the world have been killed in 2010 while working in their profession. Pakistan has been particularly dangerous, with nine killings.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists,editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.
For more information, contact CJFE Manager, Julie Payne at (416) 970-9622