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‘She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice and peace’: American hostage killed in Syria remembered for work in Palestine

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Today it has been confirmed that Kayla Mueller, 26, was killed Friday by a Jordanian airstrike on ISIS positions in Syria. Mueller had been held by ISIS since August 2013 when she was kidnapped leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo. Originally from Prescott, Arizona, she was in the country working with Syrian refugees.

Her parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, issued a statement saying:

“We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life . . . Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need from freedom, justice and peace… Our hearts are breaking for our only daughter, but we will continue in peace, dignity and love for her.”

President Obama released a statement today saying, “Kayla represents what is best about America.”

Last Friday Democracy Now published a statement from her family that demonstrated her broad commitment to human rights issues around the world:

“Kayla has spent her adult life traveling the world and helping those in need. After graduating from college, she spent more than one year living and working with humanitarian aid groups in northern India, Israel and Palestine. She returned home to Arizona in 2011, and worked for one year at an HIV/AIDS clinic while volunteering at a women’s shelter at night. In December 2011, she traveled to France to be an au pair so she could learn French in preparation for work in Africa.

“War sidetracked Kayla’s Africa plans as she was drawn to alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees. She moved to the Turkish/Syrian border in December 2012 and began working with the organizations Support to Life and the Danish Refugee Council to assist families who had been forced to flee their homes. Kayla found this work heartbreaking but compelling; she was extremely devoted to the people of Syria.”

Mueller’s work in Palestine had been with the International Solidarity Movement in the summer of 2010. The ISM published the following remembrance before Mueller’s death was confirmed:

Our hearts are with Kayla, her family, friends, and all those who have lost liberty, lives and loved ones in the global struggle for freedom and human rights.

With the ISM, Kayla worked with Palestinians nonviolently resisting the confiscation and demolitions of their homes and lands. In the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Occupied East Jerusalem, she stayed with the Al Kurd family to try and prevent the takeover of their home by Israeli settlers.

Kayla accompanied Palestinian children to school in the neighborhood of Tel Ruimeda in Al-Khalil (Hebron) where the children face frequent attacks by the Israeli settlers and military. She stayed with villagers in Izbat Al Tabib in a protest tent to try to prevent the demolition of homes in the village. She joined weekly Friday protests in Palestinian villages against the confiscation of their lands due to Israel’s illegal annexation wall and settlements.

Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo: International Solidarity Movement)
Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo: International Solidarity Movement)

The ISM also republished some of Mueller’s writings from while she was with the group, including this following her time in Palestine:

This land that is beautiful as the poetry of the mystics. This land with the people who’s hearts are more expansive than any wall that any man could ever build. Yes, the wall will fall. The nature of impermanence is our greatest ally and soon the rules will change, the tide will turn and just as the moon waxes and wanes over this land so too the cycles of life here will continue. One day the cycle will once again return to freedom.

Update: Today a new site titled For Kayla went online. It includes a section on her activism for Palestine.

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President Obama released a statement today saying, “Kayla represents what is best about America.”

Yes, Barry O., she did. It’s too bad that you and the people around you haven’t got the decency to follow in her footsteps.

This is so sad. my heart breaks for her and her family. I find it “interesting” that the NYT article about Ms. Mueller did not mention any of her work for Palestinian rights, which was extensive. I suspect that is because, since she was obviously a heroic figure, this might… Read more »

It’s very sad what happened to Kayla but I can’t help imagining what this girl must have been going through during her long captivity and now her suffering must be over. May she rest in peace.

NPR kept Ms. Mueller’s death in their 2X an hour news updates all morning here. Not one mention of:

A Syrian airstrike
Her work for ISM
Palestinian refugees

How is her death any different than the ten of thousands killed and injured in the drone wars?