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Remembering Leila Alaoui, photographer who crossed borders

When al-Qaida militants attacked a hotel in Burkina Faso, killing 30, one of the victims was an Amnesty International worker and photographer named Leila Alaoui. Aida Alami, a close friend, talked to the NewsHour from Alaoui's funeral.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Finally tonight, a young life dedicated to capturing beauty cut short by violence.

    Al-Qaida militants attacked a hotel in Burkina Faso on Friday. Thirty people were killed, including two who worked for Amnesty International.

    One of the Amnesty workers was a French-Moroccan photographer named Leila Alaoui.

    Earlier today, we spoke with one of Alaoui’s closest friends, Aida Alami, who is also a journalist. We reached her by phone at Alaoui’s funeral in Marrakesh, Morocco.

  • AIDA ALAMI, Friend of Leila Alaoui:

    She was a luminous, really vibrant person. She was really positive. She loved her job. She loved her friends.

    And she was a very active young woman, traveling all the time, working on topics she really loved. She was very focused, very dedicated to her work and her subject.

    Well, there’s an anecdote I have heard her say a lot, is that she was French-Moroccan, so, because of her French passport, she could travel everywhere, and she was always really interested in all these people who could not cross borders and so on. And she was wondering why they were trying — they were risking their lives to go to the other side.

    She had a way of photographing people like not many people, I think, can do it. And so she started getting to the portraits — into doing portraits all over the world. She did a lot of human rights campaigns for free.

    She was just interested in capturing people and capturing people who were going through hard times. And the reason she was in Burkina is I know that she was taking photos of powerful women. And she was actually sending me once she was there a lot of pictures of these women that she was photographing, and reported on subjects where she was embedded for a long time, for example, the plight of Sub-Saharan Africans in Morocco.

    She was so into it that I couldn’t see Leila without her getting tons of phone calls of undocumented people telling her they were trying to cross, and her giving them advice and tell them, “No, don’t risk your life, don’t cross.”

    She was constantly trying to help them find a doctor, find money for them. One day, I was reporting on sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco, and she said told me, “Oh, well, this afternoon — today, I’m going to be recording a lot of them all day, so if you want — need some subjects, just come over to my place.”

    And I walked in, and there were, like, 40 people in her living room, and she was making dinner for — I mean, lunch for them. I mean, she was just very intense about all her subjects.

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