Murder in Mali

I just read a really great article from the Associated Press about Mali. It's a West African nation whose president got overthrown in a coup in 2012. During the instability, the Tuareg ethnic minority in the north and their Islamist allies seized control of that whole part of the country. In January of this year, the French charged in and routed the supposed independent state of Azawad, returning Timbuktu to the hands of the Malian military. Hooray, the good guys win, no more Sharia, etc. The reporter travels to the area and at great personal risk uncovers evidence of extrajudicial killings targeting the ethnic Arab and Tuareg population.

Beyond how beautifully written it is, one thing that struck me was how much compassion came through for the subjects of the piece, who are the murdered people themselves. In particular with Vieux Ali, or Old Ali, "The last Arab in Timbuktu," you begin to understand what a tragedy it was that he would be killed. There are some truly haunting passages about hunting for shallow graves hidden in the dunes. I hadn't considered the reporter's gender, at least until the passage that described the official pressure to stop snooping around.

Soldiers began making unannounced visits to my hotel, asking to speak to me.

Late one night, a Malian hotel employee approached me, smelling of alcohol.

"I know what you are doing," he said. "Everyone knows you're here to sully the reputation of our troops."

That afternoon, I asked the driver I had hired to sleep outside my room for protection.

At that point, I checked the byline and saw that it was written by Rukmini Callimachi, who's the West Africa Bureau Chief for the AP. She was accompanied on one of her trips by the photographer Rebecca Blackwell, and they really ended up getting the goods. I've read a number of articles, on Jezebel and elsewhere, about the structural problems facing female journalists, especially those in conflict zones. If anyone's looking for examples of women doing amazing work in serious investigative journalism, look no further. Pulitzer written all over it.