Why we remember Daniel Pearl

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl

His family, friends and colleagues called him “Danny.” But to the world, he will be forever known as DANIEL PEARL, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002 by Pakistani terrorists.

He was 38 when killed. His wife was expecting their first child. His senseless death still sends chills down the spines of journalists and people of conscience everywhere.

But his death was not in vain. Finding ways, public and private, to celebrate his good works is one reason for the Daniel Pearl World Music Days. A worldwide annual event, this year Stanford will host Harmony for Humanity: Daniel Pearl World Music Days Concert on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Church.

The annual free Stanford concert will include works by Ludwig van Beethoven, JONATHAN BERGER, David Popper and Gabriel Fauré performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the Stanford Chamber Chorale, violinist LIVIA SOHN and others.

This musical remembrance is one example of how Pearl has become an icon for anyone trying to bridge gulfs between people and cultures.

Daniel Pearl 1985 Stanford Quad (yearbook photo)
Daniel Pearl 1985 Stanford Quad (yearbook photo)

Pearl was a classically trained violinist, an avid fiddler and a creative mandolin player. He solidified his professional passion as a Stanford undergraduate. He co-founded a student newspaper called the Stanford Commentator, a publication devoted to exploring multiple sides of contentious issues. He was a reporter for KZSU, the campus radio station. Pearl graduated from Stanford in 1985 with a BA in communication, with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

Pearl’s journalism career led him from reporting local news to the Wall Street Journal, where he specialized in foreign coverage. He was the Journal’s Southeast Asia bureau chief, where he was doggedly pursuing stories on the U.S. war on terrorism that followed the 9/11 attacks.

In January 2002, Pearl was in Karachi, Pakistan, on his way to what he thought was an interview when he was kidnapped. His abductors initially demanded the release of Pakistani detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guatanamo Bay, where captured al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were held. The kidnappers accused Pearl of being a spy – an accusation strongly denied by the CIA and Wall Street Journal – and vowed to kill Pearl if their demands were not met.

Photos of Pearl handcuffed with a gun at his head and holding up a newspaper were released. The horrific image was seared into the mind of the international community. The kidnappers did not respond to public pleas for release of Pearl by his editor, Paul Steiger, and his wife, Mariane. U.S. and Pakistani intelligence forces tried to track down the kidnappers.

Nine days after the abduction, the terrorists killed Pearl by beheading. His remains were found five months later 30 miles outside of Karachi.

“Danny was an outstanding colleague, a great reporter and a dear friend of many,” Steiger said after the confirmation of Pearl’s death.

“His murder is an act of barbarism,” Steiger added. “We are heartbroken at his death.”

Video: Stanford remembers Daniel Pearl and his mission (2002)