Gillis Still Hostage in Libya
Described as intrepid, resilient, resourceful, and intelligent by friends and professors, Clare M. Gillis, a recent Harvard graduate who was captured last Tuesday while working as a freelance reporter to cover the violence in Libya, remains hostage at a government detention center in Tripoli.
Gillis was detained outside the city of Brega, where a car carrying Gillis and three other journalists was taken over by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
Gillis was spotted at the detention center in Tripoli with two of the journalists captured, according to media reports. The status of a South African photographer who was also captured, Anton Hammerl, is unknown.
Alexander More, who is friends with Gillis, said that she “has to get the hell out of there.”
“It haunts my dreams. I can’t even imagine,” said More, a history teaching fellow who knew Gillis for six years.
Sitting in front of two computer screens with news constantly updating, More called for immediate action by the Harvard community to bring her back.
“She served our community for 10 years as graduate student and teaching fellow. She should absolutely be on the mind of the [University] administration.” said More, frowning.
The White House called for the release of the journalists at a press briefing yesterday.
“We’re very aware of this issue, and I know the State Department is working very hard in order to do what it can to facilitate those journalists’ release,” said Jay Carney, President Obama’s press secretary. “We take this very, very seriously, as we did when other journalists were detained.”
As of yesterday, the Libyan government has not acknowledged the detention of the journalists. Sources in Libya said that the journalists were being treated well by the government, according to The Atlantic.
Yet, friends and acquaintances of Gillis remain deeply concerned.
“You don’t expect the worst to happen,” said Ece G. Turnator, a graduate student in the history department. “God knows what she’s going through, which is kind of scary.”
Since the news about Gillis’ capture spread last week, friends of Gillis have been organizing to secure her release. Jeffrey R. Webb and Elizabeth W. Mellyn, both Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences graduates and close friends of Gillis, created a Facebook page called “Friends for the Release of Clare Gillis” to facilitate sharing updates of Gillis’ situation.
“This is not only a place to communicate with friends and share information, but a way of keeping the matter out there,” said Mellyn, who is currently on a year-long fellowship in Villa I Tatti, a Harvard research institute in Italy.
The History Department issued a news brief last Friday about the capture of Gillis, who was a history adviser in Adams House during the 2008-2009 academic year.