PARIS - La Stampa's veteran war correspondent Domenico Quirico has been missing in Syria more than three weeks now. Our Turin-based partner released the news earlier this week after working quietly with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to trace the journalist.
Heading for Homs, he crossed the Syrian border through Lebanon on April 6 and contact was lost three days later. Quirico, 62, is renowned for his reports on conflicted areas and, according to La Stampa editor-in-chief Mario Calabresi, has often lost contact, but never for this amount of time.
In the past year, he has been to Mali three times, Somalia once, and, now for a fourth time, he is in Syria. His first two Syrian trips were to Aleppo and the third to Idlib, following the rebels. This time he wanted to go back and write about the evolution of the conflict that strayed from the front pages.
Quirico would never write a story away from the front lines -- ethically, he found that unacceptable. La Stampa quotes him as once saying that in order to report the true facts about bombings, you must be under the bombs with the population, sharing emotions, as well as the destiny of the people you are covering. So, to honor the job that he loves, he went back.
His disappearance is especially poignant this Friday, as it is World Press Freedom day and 2013 marks its 20th anniversary. Since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011, the country has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
See below for a sample of Worldcrunch's English-language editions of Quirico’s reporting, from searching for the Taliban to consciously risking his life on a tiny boat with illegal immigrants crossing from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Our thoughts are with him, his family, and his La Stampa colleagues:
In Mali this time last year, he joined the Tuareg rebels fighting for their freedom.
I arrived in the newly declared West African nation of Azawad. It is a beautiful, and dark name which means “land of transhumance,” in Tamasheq, the Tuareg language. The Mali army left Azawad three weeks ago. Now, there are only the Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) who declared their independence from not only the Mali authorities, but also Salafists and al Qaeda. Here, no one is in charge.
In Somalia in 2012, Quirico joined a general and his men who were fighting al Qaeda.
General Barisse’s men are in the pick-up trucks, one next to the other, holding their weapons, looking around. They are hunting the al-Shabaab, the Somali Taliban, the nightmare that al Qaeda bore, even here in the sands of the Horn of Africa, cultivated in the microbes of an infinite tribal war that the West did not know how to, or did not want to solve.
Yes, the war that Barisse’s men fight is complicated. It isn’t a drone war -- mechanic, sterile, rather cowardly - that the Americans are also fighting here, and that has silently eliminated at least 200 al-Shabaab, including several key leaders.
Joining 112 immigrants from Tunisia, Quirico spent 22 hours on a tiny boat, crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
“I made the journey because of my arrogant desire to understand why these young men risk their lives to reach Europe. It is not just poverty that drives them. In Tunisia, even if people have always been poor, they are not starving. They are driven by the same force that has always made young people dream and leave their hometown. They are just looking for another life. They want to dream, and to try.”