Mariane Pearl (Pakistan)

“Forgiveness is not a value strong enough to stand on. You have to win some sort of victory over the people who have hurt you.”

Photography by Brian Moody

Mariane Pearl, pictured here with her son Adam, aged 18 months) was five months pregnant when her husband, the American journalist Daniel Pearl, was brutally murdered by a militant Islamic fundamentalist group in February 2002. Determined not to be broken, she has written a book called A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of my Husband Daniel Pearl.

When I heard that Omar Sheikh had been found guilty of Danny’s murder, I wrote to President Musharraf of Pakistan to ask for the death penalty. The death penalty is not a solution, and asking for it isn’t about revenge, but I believe that in this particular case the death penalty is justice; it is society punishing someone for murder. For Pakistan it is also a strong political statement against terrorism. However, Omar Sheikh won’t pay for Danny’s life with his life, and the death penalty doesn’t make me feel any better.

I have no reason to forgive Omar Sheikh. I was told he wanted to apologise to me, but I refused to meet him. The man is a psychopath and I don’t believe his apology would be genuine. Maybe he felt a flicker of remorse because he too has a wife and a little boy, but there would be no value in our meeting.

Personally I could easily kill Omar Sheikh, but I prefer to leave it up to Pakistan’s justice system. There is a huge difference between taking revenge into your own hands and leaving it up to the law. I was totally against the Iraq war. People think they’ll feel better if a bit more of the enemy is destroyed. But in fact, so often it is only innocent people who die, and eventually you forget why you started fighting in the first place. Revenge is a basic human instinct, the animal part of man, and it gets us nowhere. Not to retaliate doesn’t mean you’re weak. In fact, being able to rise above your instincts is a sign of strength – far more heroic than bombing another country or planning a suicide mission. Dialogue is the ultimate act of courage, far more courageous than killing someone.

But forgiveness is too lame as an answer to extreme situations. It’s not a value strong enough to stand on. You have to win some sort of victory over the people who have hurt you, and you can only do that by denying the terrorists their goal. They try to kill everything in you – initiative, hope, confidence, dialogue. The only way to oppose them is by demonstrating the strength they think they have taken from you. That strength is to keep on living, to keep on valuing life. So now it’s up to me to create something of my life. Danny’s parents have started a Foundation in his name, and I’m making small gains step by step. First by giving birth to Adam, then by writing my book.