Simon Wiesenthal Center to bestow International Leadership Award to Journalist Souad Mekhennet
November 11, 2019
The Simon Wiesenthal Center(SWC) will bestow its International Leadership Award to Washington Post Journalist Souad Mekhennet at its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, on January 14th, 2020.
“In an era where ten-second sound-bytes and vacuous social media postings, Souad Mekhennet stands out as a courageous, unbiased and impactful journalist and author”, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda for the leading Jewish Human Rights NGO. “Ms. Mehkennet has reported in real-time from the Arab Spring, interviewed murderous ISIS leaders, and became the first Muslim person to play a pivotal role in solving the case of a major Nazi War Criminal who found safe haven in Egypt”.
“While others bemoan the state of the world, Souad Mekhennet has braved arrest, a gun to head, threats of rape and violence to bring to light the rarest commodity of all—the truth—from the frontlines of breaking news across the Middle East and beyond. Politicians and pundits would do well to read her reportage to help them make more informed decisions”, Rabbi Cooper added.
Souad Mekhennet is a national security reporter for The Washington Post where she has chronicled the rise of extremism and terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Considered to be one of the most well-sourced reporters on the subject, Mekhennet has interviewed terrorist leaders and jihadists and was part of 2017 a team of reporters who unmasked Jihadi John. Souad Mekhennet is the author of I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, and co-author of Eternal Nazi: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the Relentless Pursuit of SS Doctor Aribert Heim published in 2014. Ms. Mekhennet uncovered the whereabouts of one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, Dr. Aribert Heim, in the face of grave danger to her personal safety. She is the first person of Muslim descent to ever help solve the case of a most-wanted Nazi war criminal. Ms. Mekhennet was able to do so through her courage and journalistic skill. She smuggled the Nazi doctor’s briefcase out of Egypt at great risk to her life and liberty. As a result of her courageous acts, the Wiesenthal Center, in collaboration with the relevant authorities, was able to examine handwritten letters and other documentary evidence to establish that the man living under the name of Tarik Hussein Farid in Cairo, had indeed been Aribert Heim.
Ms. Mekhennet was later jailed while reporting on the Arab Spring in Egypt. During her interrogation, the Egyptian authorities brought up her involvement in solving the Aribert Heim case because the Egyptian government was apparently upset about the bad public relations brought by her revelation that the Nazi doctor had been living as a free man in Egypt for decades. While detained, she was threatened with rape and had a gun pointed at her head. This did not deter her from further acts of journalistic courage. She has continued to cover difficult topics in dangerous places despite the risk to her safety.
Ms. Mekhennet’s work is accurate, objective, and nuanced. It doesn’t paint a simple picture but rather portrays things as they are – complex, complicated, and at times, messy. For example, when she was covering the Arab Spring, she provided nuanced, unbiased reporting, writing about the involvement of foreign governments on all sides of the movement. Also, when many journalists took the side of the protesters, Ms. Mekhennet did not, despite the fact that she had been imprisoned by government authorities for her reporting.
For these reasons and her multi-lingual skill set, Souad Mekhennet is today without question, one of the foremost journalists reporting on issues of extremism, radicalization, terrorism, and national security. She is exceedingly well-respected for her subject matter expertise, journalistic integrity, objectivity, dedication to the truth, unparalleled access to otherwise inaccessible sources, and above all, her undying courage. She is truly one-of-a-kind and our nation is better for her contributions. The SWC is proud to recognize the achievements of this amazing journalist.
For more information, please contact the Center's Communications Department, 310-772-2454. join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent directly to your Twitter feed.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).