Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from F-J

Hamidi, Ibrahim (1969–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE, LEGACY

president syrian damascus hayat

Syrian journalist Ibrahim Hamidi (also Humaydi) is the Damascus-based correspondent for the London-based daily al-Hayat newspaper. He has covered a variety of issues related to Syria on the regional and international level, including the grooming and early years of President BASHAR AL-ASAD’S rule in Syria, and the Iraq War.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Hamidi was born to an impoverished family in a small Syrian village in the northern district of Idlib in March 1969. His father, a truck driver, died in a car accident when Hamidi was only three years old, leaving Hamidi in the care of his young mother.

Hamidi spent his entire childhood living off donations from more well-to-do families in the neighborhood. He has stated that he does not remember even once wearing new clothes during his childhood. The family home had no television, radio, and for a while, no electricity as well. The young Hamidi would sneak up to the home of a rich man who had bought a color television in the 1970s to watch its programs through the window.

Completely cut off from the outside world, his first exposure to print journalism came when he saw Idlib al-Khadra (Green Idlib) , a colorless agricultural periodical published by the Revolutionary Youth Union of the Ba’th Party. It was certainly not the Times , but nevertheless, it enchanted the village boy.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Hamidi moved to the Syrian capital in 1986 to study journalism at the University of Damascus. He lived off a student loan he had obtained, with 285 SP (less than US$5) per month. From the dull news of Idlib al-Khadra he then became a reader of Syria’s state-run dailies, Tishrin, al-Ba’th , and al-Thawra , which, although below average by international standards, were nevertheless a giant improvement for the ambitious young man. They, among other things, started to shape his views about life and politics.

Another influence was his brother, who had studied in France through a scholarship offered by the Ministry of Defense. When visiting on holidays, he brought with him new, foreign, and exciting ideas, such as jeans and alcohol, to the Hamidi household. The family atmosphere was relatively relaxed and democratic: No views were imposed on Hamidi with regard to politics, life, or religion. He grew up believing in the human being and its power to test, challenge, adopt, or discard any idea in life.

Other influences in his life were his two teachers, Adib Khaddur and Abdullah Dardari. The latter, who currently serves as deputy prime minister for Economic Affairs, at the time was teaching English to journalism students at Damascus University. Dardari was also working as correspondent for the London-based daily al-Hayat newspaper. Seeing talent in the young Hamidi, he offered him a job at the office of al-Hayat to run errands, make coffee for guests, and help out with small editorial work. He was part secretary, part office boy.

With more money in his pockets, Hamidi moved out of the college dorms and rented a home with an Iraqi dissident living in Damascus. Karim al-Abid, now a poet in London, influenced Hamidi’s views on Iraq and SADDAM HUSSEIN . His earlier roommates in college were Kurds, who also made Hamidi sympathetic with Kurdish aspirations. In November 1993, Dardari decided to join the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and hunt for a new correspondent for al-Hayat . The obvious choice was Hamidi. Overnight, Hamidi’s salary was increased from 1,500 SP (US$30) to 25,000 SP (US$500).

At twenty-four years old, Hamidi made his first trip outside Syria, traveling to attend the newspapers’ annual conference in London in September 1994. In July 1996 he covered the Arab League Summit in Cairo and saw President HAFIZ AL-ASAD for the first time. Back then, with no satellite television and barely any Lebanese newspapers coming into Syria, Hamidi became one of the most reliable and readable news sources on Syria.

Sympathetic to the Kurdish movement, he interviewed ABDULLAH ÖCALAN , the Turkish Kurdish leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who was based in Damascus, along with Iraqi Kurdish leaders MAS’UD BARZANI and JALAL TALABANI , who used to visit Damascus during the years they opposed Saddam Hussein. Many years later in 2007, Hamidi interviewed Talabani again, as president of Iraq, after the U.S. toppling of Saddam Hussein. He also attended the opening of parliament in Iraqi Kurdistan in November 2002.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Ibrahim Hamidi (Humaydi)

Birth: 1969, Idlib district, Syria

Family: Wife: Dima Saadallah Wannus

Nationality: Syrian

Education: B.A., Faculty of Journalism at the University of Damascus

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1990s and 2000s: Writes for the al-Wasat magazine (London), the Daily Star (Beirut), and LBC Satellite Television (Beirut)
  • 1991–present: Correspondent for al-Hayat daily
  • 2002–2003: Arrested and accused of publishing inaccurate information
  • 2005–present: Research fellow at St. andrews University

In 1996 Hamidi traveled to the United States to cover the U.S. presidential elections and saw Bill Clinton in person debating with Robert Dole. He interviewed Palestinian leaders such as Fathi al-Shiqaqi, the head of Islamic Jihad who was assassinated by an Israeli in Malta days after his interview with al-Hayat , his successor Ramadan Shallah (who became a good friend of Hamidi), and KHALID MASH’AL , the head of the political bureau of Hamas. By 1998 Hamidi was driving a Jaguar—a milestone for the poor boy from Idlib—and meeting heads of state such as Page 331  Prime Minister RAFIQ HARIRI of Lebanon, Lebanese Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanese president EMILE LAHOUD , French president Jacques Chirac, Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Turkish president AHMET NECDET SEZER , Turkish prime minister Recep TAYYIP ERDOGAN , deputy Iraqi prime minister Tariq Aziz, and Iraqi vice-president Taha Yasin Ramadan al-Jazrawi. He spoke with Palestinian president YASIR ARAFAT , interviewed Arafat’s prime minister MAHMUD ABBAS in 2003, and met with the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah ALI KHAMENEHI in Tehran in 1999. In January 2000, he covered the Syrian-Israeli peace talks in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and saw President Clinton (for the second time), Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.

THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

The Syrian-Israeli peace talks in Shepherdstown proved controversial for Hamidi. When he outlined his vision of how the working document would look, it appeared dangerously similar to the actual document. The Israeli press immediately pursued the story, saying that Hamidi had leaked the information under orders from the Syrians. The Syrian team, on the other hand, accused him of leaking it through information obtained from the Israelis. The talks, code-named mushroom diplomacy, were supposed to be strictly confidential and allowed to grow—similar to mushrooms—in darkness.

Hamidi found a way out of this predicament via an unexpected benefactor. At the time, Hamidi had started to cover in al-Hayat the rise of Bashar al-Asad, who had recently returned from Great Britain in anticipation of eventually ascending to the presidency following his father’s death. A senior Syrian official close to Asad contacted Hamidi and asked him for clarifications regarding what actually had happened at Shepherdstown. Hamidi recounted the entire story, which Asad believed and backed. The young Asad even granted him an interview—the first to an Arab newspaper before becoming president, in 1995, regarding the Internet and how Syria can make use of it.

Hamidi went on to cover the Hafiz al-Asad-Bill Clinton Summit in Geneva in March 2000, the death of the Syrian leader in June 2000, and the early months of the leader’s son Bashar’s tenure as president. Among other events, Hamidi traveled with the new president Bashar al-Asad to Ankara and Madrid in 2004,Moscow in 2005, and Riyadh, for the latest Arab Summit, in March 2007.

Hamidi generated controversy again in December 2002, this time being arrested for publishing inaccurate information regarding Syria’s preparations for the Iraq War of 2003. He remained in jail from 23 December 2002 until 25 May 2003, released on bail after the war ended, then put on trial and declared innocent.

LEGACY

In looking back at the past twenty years of his life, Hamidi said in an interview with the author in Damascus on 5 April 2007: “It’s funny, and people might not believe me. But I hated everything I did. I never wanted to come to Damascus. I did. I never wanted to work as a journalist. I did. I never wanted to get immersed in politics. I did. I never wanted to become a part of high society. I also did. I never wanted this job but have been doing it for the past seventeen years.” When asked about his idol figure in life, he replied, without hesitation, Nelson Mandela.

Hamilton, Lisa Gay (1964–) [next] [back] Hamed, Marwan (1977–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE, LEGACY

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or