Jean-Pierre Thieck — activist, scholar, journalist and friend of MERIP — died of AIDS in Paris on July 5, 1990, at the age of 41. A descendant of a grand rabbi of Tunis on his mother’s side, his upbringing in the thick of the Paris communist milieu manifested itself in youthful political activism and in life-long and strong (but never uncritical) sympathy for the oppressed and their struggles.
Jean-Pierre was also a man of wide-ranging intellectual interests. As if in fulfillment of the Muslim dictum, “Seek knowledge even in
China,” he traveled extensively to perfect his extraordinary Arabic and Turkish language skills and to study with leading scholars of the
Middle East in Paris, Cairo, Oxford, Chicago, Damascus, Beirut and Istanbul. His scholarly accomplishments include a masters’ thesis on the National Committee of Workers and Students that radicalized the Egyptian national movement in 1946, and a study of nineteenth-century Cairo.
Barred from Egypt because of his political views, he turned to the history of Aleppo in the eighteenth century, beginning work on a these
d’etat that was, sadly, never completed. From 1986 Jean-Pierre served as Le Monde’s correspondent in Istanbul, writing under the pseudonym of Michel Farrere; his dispatches helped bring official repression, especially in the Kurdish regions, to the attention of European public opinion.
Wherever he lived and traveled, Jean-Pierre’s warmth, generosity and mischievous sense of humor left a deep and lasting impression on the many people whose lives touched his. Those of us who saw him during his most recent stay in North America were amazed by his cheerfulness and high spirits, despite his fears about what might lie ahead. Jean-Pierre’s exuberance and zest for life make it very difficult for all who knew him to accept the news of his untimely death. Our deep sense of loss is tempered only by our indelible memories of this sweet, funny, vibrant and unique human being. Friends and colleagues are holding a memorial gathering at the Middle East Studies meeting in San Antonio in November. In light of Jean-Pierre’s personal and political commitments, we suggest that contributions in his memory be sent to ACT UP (AIDS Coalition
to Unleash Power), 2300 Market Street, Box 15, San Francisco, CA 94114.