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Haider Rizvi: a Rebel Who Battled Many Causes

Haider Rizvi
IPS UN Correspondent

Nov 1 2015 (IPS) - Haider Rizvi, who spent nearly 20 years as a reporter for IPS covering the United Nations, died October 29 in Lahore, Pakistan, his home country.

At the news of his death, his former colleagues and friends were quick to pay tributes to a journalist who had so much to offer – but, regrettably, failed to achieve the journalistic stature he rightly deserved because he just ran out of time.

Kitty Stapp wrote: Haider was always filled with energy. He had a loud, infectious laugh that put a smile on the face of anyone within range (which was a fair-sized area). As a journalist, he was always true to his ideals of justice and equality, and a passionate advocate of the underdog.

There wasn’t an ounce of snobbery or superiority in Haider. He would happily talk to anyone about anything, and could recite poetry or argue politics with equal fluency.

Haider never earned much money, and he managed to hold onto even less, but he was always generous with what he had. His bank balance might have been low, but his happiness index was high. In the end, that’s what counts the most. He will be sorely missed.

Thalif Deen wrote: Haider Rizvi was a passionate rebel who relentlessly fought for many ideological causes – and the political ideals he stood for. He was both a radical and a liberal who never sacrificed his beliefs even under the most trying circumstances.

Haider began with IPS South Asia back in 1993 and eventually landed in the United States, reporting both from the IPS UN Bureau and later from Washington DC. In between, he grabbed a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York.

Haider’s writings faithfully reflected the causes he fought for. He passionately advocated the rights of African-Americans, Hispanic minorities and native Americans in the US and indigenous people in Latin America; highlighted student protests in the US; advocated the Palestinian’s right to statehood; battled for the eradication of hunger and poverty in the developing world; joined the global campaign for nuclear disarmament; and covered the “Occupy Wall Street” protests (which for him, also meant “Un-Occupy Palestine”).


After the 9/11 attacks on New York, Haider was physically beaten up in the mean streets of Brooklyn where a group of Hispanic thugs mistook him for a bearded Taliban supporter (and threatened to throw him out of a high rise building.) Even as he was being pummeled, he told the misguided attackers: “Brother, why are you beating me? We are all fighting for the same cause.” And, for a moment, he put them to shame.

The next day, Haider was up and running – and all over the pages of New York newspapers, and also being interviewed on morning TV shows. Still, he stood defiant and refused to dispense with his beard – continuing to maintain a striking resemblance to a mujahideen from the battlefields of Afghanistan.

At UN press stakeouts outside the Security Council chamber, he usually looked aggressive, fueled mostly by Dutch courage. At one of the stakeouts, he apparently looked so threatening that UN security officers were on the verge of carrying him out – feet first. But he did not give UN security the pleasure of that privilege.

Kanya d’Almeida wrote: The first time I met Haider I was just an intern. I sought out his company because he was one of the few journalists at the UN who didn’t seem to be afraid of speaking his mind. He refused to recognize the state of Israel. He referred to India/Pakistan as the Indus Valley Civilization, rejecting the British-imposed partition of the country.

He talked loudly about revolution and wrote poetry in his office at night. He was full of love. Sometimes, in moments of deep intoxication, he became unbearable; but when he emerged from these bouts he displayed a brilliant mind and a deep passion for justice.

He called everyone his “brothers” and “sisters”, even when they scorned him. He adored Che and Fidel. He dreamed of a brotherhood of humankind but was too drunk too much of the time to realize his own dreams.

Latin America was a beacon of hope for him, a place where people were closer than anywhere else in the world to throwing off the yoke of capitalism and being free. He identified with the wretched of the earth and indigenous people everywhere.

He was, in many ways, a prophet — someone who saw past the veil to the terrible realities in the world. He spoke the truth so he was dismissed as a madman. I’ve never met anyone else quite like him and I doubt I ever will.

Marty Logan wrote: I remember walking with Haider one night in Manhattan, in 2003, after one of our cheap dinners. I happened to mention that another US-based writer for IPS had left for Iraq to report on the US-led invasion.

He became incensed, and started yelling at me on the street because I hadn’t given him the opportunity to go (although it hadn’t, been my decision to send the other writer). That’s when I realised that while his passion often manifested itself in Haider’s love for the sensual, it also made him deeply committed to reporting on injustice.

Michael Khatana wrote: It is obvious that Haider lived a tortured existence. Nonetheless, he was a free soul. Always broke, but would not hesitate in expressing his views. May the Creator give him a good job in the hereafter, so that he does not have to struggle any more. May God give him peace and bless his soul.


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