I met Ali Mustafa a long time ago, when he was one of the younger activists in Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA). I was not so old as I am now but Ali’s energy and anger made me feel my age then.
Ali was no single-issue activist. He spent a summer working (as an intern I think) with the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) in Brazil, a movement of landless peasants. That was how he did things. He wanted to go, be in it.
He was no hotel journalist. When he went to Palestine and Egypt and to Syria, he lived with the people, shared their risks, faced whatever they faced.
I didn’t always get to meet him after his tours when he’d come back to Toronto, but I did quite a few times. We would talk and argue over details, facts, doctrine (“Is what’s happening in Egypt really a *revolution*?” — Ali thought yes, and so did I, for the record).
He was a journalist in the sense that he went there, wherever there was and wrote and documented, and photographed. But he was not a journalist in any of the bad ways. There was nothing careerist about him. He never pretended at any false objectivity — he was a people’s journalist and he believed in their struggles. Pretty much everything I ever saw him do, he did with this motivation. He never put himself above the people he was writing about. He put himself with them, instead.
When I was Ali’s age, I think I had a lot more help and support doing the kinds of things I did than he had doing what he did. I really wish more people could have seen his work, and I wish he could have been around some more decades to do more of it.
Ali Mustafa (twitter handle @_fbtm; blog http://frombeyondthemargins.blogspot.com) was a Canadian freelance journalist and activist. He died with seven Syrians in an airstrike by the Assad government in the Hadariya neighbourhood of Aleppo on March 9, 2014.
Ali was pretty prolific. Here’s a small sample of Ali’s writing from his blog:
Oct 31, 2013: Reporting from the Inside — Ali interviewed by Stefan Christoff, a very nuanced and well–informed example of Ali’s type of people’s journalism, about Syria.
March 3, 2013: The Ultras and the Eegyptian Revolution — Ali interviewed by Left Hook. Ali’s take on the Egyptian Revolution.
January 20, 2013: Kafka in the Courts Ali’s reporting on the case of Mohammad Majoub.
March 24, 2011: Where Athenian Democracy Went Wrong — Ali showing off a bit with some deep historical thinking about ancient democracy and what it means for today…
Justin Podur is the author of Haiti’s New Dictatorship (Pluto Press 2012). He has contributed chapters to Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan (University of Toronto Press 2013) and Real Utopia (AK Press 2008). He is an Associate Professor at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies.
This piece originally appeared on Justin Podur’s blog and is reprinted with permission.