This article appeared on DigitalLife on Today on Tuesday (May 3), a day before Syria confirmed that it is holding former Seattle journalist Dorothy Parvaz. Reprinted with permission from MSNBC.
My friend Dorothy Parvaz has been missing for five days and ... I don't know what to do.
Dorothy is a journalist — no, not just a journalist, a great journalist — who I had the privilege of working with for years. She went to Syria to cover the turmoil there. And that’s where she vanished last Friday.
Those who know the situation best say the best hope for bringing Dorothy home alive is to bring as much attention to bear on her situation as possible so that her captors (likely the Syrian government) will know the world is paying attention. But how do you do get the world to pay attention when the world seems singularly focused on the death of Osama bin Laden?
In moments like these, many people pray. And I can understand that desire now better than I have ever before. When things go sideways, praying means doing something when doing nothing is too painful to consider.
But I'm not a believer in, well, much of anything. And prayer has never felt quite right to me. And yet, oh the irony ... here I am, in a moment of need, with a request for the universe. I want Dorothy back in her family’s arms, safe and sound. Please. Please. Please.
And so today I sent my request to the universe the only way I know how. Today I tweeted my request. And you know what ... the Twitterverse answered.
My good friend and reporter Dorothy Parvaz is missing in Syria. Please spread the word and help us demand her return: http://bit.ly/jfHCww
The response to that tweet was almost instantaneous ... and overwhelming — wonderfully, surprisingly overwhelming. People — all kinds of people, some I knew, many many I didn't — heard my request and carried it forth farther than I ever could have.
They retweeted and retweeted and retweeted all day long. These people, these wonderful people! Some tweeted because they knew Dorothy. So very many tweeted simply because they heard a cry for help and decided to answer. As a tech reporter, I have long known that this is the wonderful power of social media ... but today I know and understand this power like never before.
And today it's been these online places and digital networks that have been the lifeline for many of us who are waiting ... waiting ... waiting for news about Dorothy.
On Twitter, someone created the hashtag #FreeDorothy so that together we can raise our voices ... so that collectively we’re loud enough that someone with some power somewhere might hear our plea for her safety.
Meanwhile, seemingly from out of nowhere, a Free Dorothy Parvaz page has sprung up on Facebook. It started with 100 likes this morning and has now well passed 3,500. And it’s there that those of us who know Dorothy as well as those who don’t, but care nonetheless, have been able to exchange the scraps of information that we have and share the few actions we might take.
It’s here on Facebook (that place I often loathe but can not help but love today) that people have been able to send their love and support to Dorothy’s family — her father, her sisters, her brother, her mother, her fiancé. I know how much she adores them all. And I can only imagine how worried they must be.
Others have used personal blogs to spread the word about Dorothy and to remind the world just what a kick-ass person she is. She touched many in her various jobs, in Seattle at The Times and The Post-Intelligencer, at both Harvard and Cambridge University, and at Al Jazeera English, where she currently writes.
As Curt Milton, who Dorothy and I worked with for years at the P-I, says in his blog: “She’s one of the strongest people I know.” I’d also add, she’s the smartest person I know. And one of the most thoughtful.
But still, Dorothy is missing. And I don’t know what to do.
Or maybe I do.
Tweet. Like. Share. Pray.
Do something. Do anything. Even if it feels like there’s nothing that can be done.
Let the Syrian government know, let God know, let the whole freakin’ World Wide Web know that Dorothy Parvaz is missing ... and we love her and we want her back.
If you read this and you want to help free Dorothy, please: