One of our former colleagues, Yasmine Ryan, sadly passed away in Istanbul last week. She was 35.
Yasmine leaves behind a rich legacy of journalism that impacted people around the world. She was a colleague, and dear friend, to many here at Al Jazeera, and the world is poorer for her passing.
Yasmine was always pushing us, and herself, to be better. Her work, always empathetic but strident in speaking truth to power, was driven by a clear desire to cut through as many layers as it took to get to the truth. She read voraciously, consuming everything she could on the subjects she loved, to ensure her work was as nuanced, insightful and well-informed as it could possibly be.
She was a reporter. There is no substitute, in journalism or life, for being there. And Yasmine was always there. Whether it was Libya, Tunisia, Mali or the other countries in North Africa that she was passionate about covering, Yasmine was always adamant that her reporting needed to be as close to the ground as possible. She was brave, sensitive and determined to tell the world’s stories, from the point of view of those living them.
She listened. People were always at the centre of her journalism, no matter how large the story she was covering. In post-revolution Libya, she wrote of the country’s missing army through the eyes of those who wanted to join it, or were already part of the many militias that formed in the wake of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. In Mali, she spoke to villagers terrified of race-based executions in the wake of the French invasion to rout armed groups in the region.
And in Tunisia, of course, she was one of the first journalists in the English-language press to pick up on what would eventually be called the Arab Spring. On our newsdesk, in the early days of the protests, she argued fervently that this movement – and the crackdown that followed – was a game-changer, not business as usual.
She pushed us, and the world, to pay attention.
She did not “cover” stories; she took ownership of them. In 2013, she moved to Tunisia as a freelancer, to write about a country struggling to shed the weight of decades of dictatorship and develop a functioning democracy that was equitable for all citizens. Experts would often turn to her for her insight on the country, and wider region.
She was warm. She took care of us, even if she had just met us. When one of our reporters was arrested in Syria in 2011, Yasmine was instrumental in organising support for the campaign for her release. In Istanbul, where she joined TRT World, she took on a position as senior features editor, mentoring young journalists and making it a point to prioritise local voices. She fought for the rights of freelancers – having been one herself for several years – wherever she worked.
She inspired. In a world that is messy and often violent, Yasmine simplified. She reminded us that no matter what we are writing about, our first responsibility is to the people at the heart of the story. She was a storyteller who stood for nuance, knowledge and grace.
She always had grace. We will miss her terribly, and our hearts go out to her father, Tom, mother, Deborah and brother, Felix, in this difficult time. She was one of us, a member of our family, and we will never forget her.
A memorial service, led by her father Tom, was held for Yasmine Ryan in Istanbul on Sunday. Further memorials will be held in Tunis on December 9 and in London on December 11.
The Coalition for Women in Journalism has announced it will launch a fund in Yasmine Ryan’s honour for aspiring young journalists.