Africa, Media

Hammerl’s wife appeals to Libyans for help

By Penny Sukhraj-Hammerl 31 October 2011

Penny Sukhraj-Hammerl, the wife of South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl who was killed by Gaddafi loyalists near Brega in April, has penned an open letter to the people of Libya. In her missive, which has been sent to the Libyan media, she asks Libyans to be her family's 'hearts, eyes and ears' in their search for Hammerl's remains. Almost five months after his death, the location of his body is still unknown.

Dear people of Libya,

On 5 November it will be seven months since our lives became inextricably linked with your struggle for liberation. On 5 April my husband, photojournalist Anton Hammerl, was gunned down by Gaddafi forces in the desert outside Brega. On that fateful day he rode out with the rebels in the company of fellow journalists, James Foley, Manu Brabo and Clare Morgana Gillis, to document what was happening on the frontline.

I know your fight for freedom has come at a huge cost and immeasurably broken the lives of far too many families, who have been cruelly robbed of their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. And there are many of you, who like us, are in anguish as your loved ones remains have not been returned to you.

I am sure like us, you keenly felt a stab in your heart as the tyrant who held your country in a vice-like grip for 42 years was given the proper last rites and buried at a secret location in the desert, while we have been denied the basic comfort and dignity of burying our dead who had led honourable lives.

Dear people of Libya we call on you to please be our hearts, eyes and ears in our search for the whereabouts of Anton’s remains.

Our thoughts are of Libya every day, trying to reach out to my husband, not knowing where his body is. We cannot rest until Anton is given a proper burial at a site that will become a place where his children can come to pay tribute to their brave father. We appeal to anyone who may have any information as to the whereabouts of his remains to please write directly to me or get in touch with Anton’s colleagues James Foley and Clare Morgana Gillis.

As the weight of Libya’s future rests heavy on all your shoulders, please know that we are thinking of you as you rebuild your beautiful country out of the wreckage of war and a ruthless dictator. God willing, one day we will make a pilgrimage to Libya, to celebrate your liberty, but to also find our own sense of peace and visit the place in the desert where my beloved husband fell.

Finally, I would like to thank you for the compassion you have shown us. In the days after we learnt of Anton’s death so many of you reached out to us with a full and real understanding of what the sacrifice of his life meant. DM

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