Dubai: For someone who has symbolised courage and dignity in the face of personal tragedy, Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl, is currently busy producing a documentary on the lives of similar inspirational women.
Titled Resilient, it profiles women from around the globe who have battled war, abject poverty, sexual discrimination and tremendous odds not only to alter their own lives but also to transform the society in which they live.
"My work is an antidote to spread hope in a world haunted by fear," says Pearl in a telephonic interview from Paris.
The documentary traces the lives of women featured in Pearl's book In Search of Hope: The Global Diaries of Mariane Pearl.
One of Pearl's favourite story is of Fatima Elayoubi, a cleaning lady and a Moroccan immigrant in Paris, who found time after scrubbing floors to pen a memoir titled Prière à la Lune (Prayer to the Moon).
The book not only became a best-seller but also opened everyone's eyes to the harsh realities of the lives of immigrant workers in big cities such as Paris.
Making a difference
Pearl, whose account of her husband's kidnapping and subsequent murder in Pakistan was made into the Hollywood film A Mighty Heart, says the stories are of women who give us a legitimate reason to hope in this world.
The Paris-based journalist adds that the citizens of the world cannot sit idle hoping the politicians will solve all their problems. "In 2009, we can't sit back and think politicians will solve our problems. It's an illusion, one party, one politician can't solve problems. We need good leaders, but leaders will come from us."
Mariane calls the current situation in Pakistan where the armed forces are locked in a fierce offensive against the Taliban "complicated", but "we cannot let extremist voices hijack the country", she says.
"Pakistan needs to pay more attention to education of women and children which I think is a major problem area. Because with education comes empowerment and when you empower people, you can tackle problems like terrorism far more effectively.
"The surge of protest in Pakistan against the sacking of the judges by the erstwhile government showed the might of the people's power in Pakistan."
Mariane and her husband Daniel, who was employed with the Wall Street Journal, were based in Karachi from where he was kidnapped and subsequently beheaded by Al Qaida terrorists in 2002. At that time, she was five months pregnant with their son Adam.
"Adam is seven years old now. I have not hidden anything about his father and how he was killed from him. He does miss his father. Despite the tragic circumstances of his father's death, I have not tried to overprotect him."
Mariane says watching the film A Mighty Heart was tough. But she says the film ended on a bright note. "It showed how I had moved on."
After the death of her husband, Mariane continued with her journalistic career. She has penned a couple of books and also contributes articles to leading magazines. Mariane says it is fate, education and her set of values that have helped her to be strong and bounce back despite the tragedy.
"Terrorism is a psychological war. Terrorists want to create fear and undermine you and your set of values. My revenge is to stand up and not let my life crumble or be dictated by them."
- Mariane Pearl was born on July 23, 1967, in France.
- She married Daniel in August 1999. The couple moved to Karachi, Pakistan, where they reported on the war on terrorism. Pearl, 38, was the Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief, when he was abducted on January 23, 2002.
- In February 2002, investigators obtained videotapes apparently showing Pearl's throat being slit by militants. His murder was confirmed on February 21, 2002.
- Four of the kidnappers were convicted on July 15, 2002, including mastermind Omar Saeed Shaikh. In 2007, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammad confessed to killing Daniel.
- In May, just three months after his murder, Mariane gave birth to Adam.
- Since Daniel's murder, Mariane has written her memoirs, ‘A Mighty Heart', which is an account of her experiences during that period.
- The book was adapted into a Hollywood film ‘A Mighty Heart' in which Angelina Jolie played Mariane's role.
- Mariane now lives with her seven-year-old son Adam in Paris.