The Michael Kelly Award

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Matthieu Aikins

Matthieu Aikins_headshotCITATION

Even in the grimmest of circumstances, the human spirit can shine through, as Matthieu Aikins chronicled in his riveting account of a civil defense team in war-torn Aleppo, Syria. Amid relentless aerial bombardment, the young men of the rescue squad tended to injured neighbors with courage, compassion, and humor. At great risk to himself, Aikins spent eight days embedded with the men to tell their story—and the larger story of one of the world’s most dangerous conflicts. After a bomb exploded next to the team’s station house, Aikins described the experience with characteristic grace. “To be hit by an explosion at close range is to experience light and sound as darkness and silence,” he wrote. “Silence as your ears ring louder than any sound, darkness as dust and smoke envelop you.”


Freelance writer Matthieu Aikins is the Schell Fellow at the Nation Institute. He lives in Kabul and has been reporting from Afghanistan since 2008. His feature writing and photography have appeared in such publications as Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, GQ, and Newsweek. Aikins received the 2013 Polk Award for magazine reporting, the Medill Medal for Courage, and the Kurt Schork Award for his Rolling Stone article “The A-Team Killings,” which uncovered evidence of war crimes in Afghanistan. He was a finalist for the 2014 Michael Kelly Award for the same article. Aikins recently completed a master’s degree in Near Eastern Studies at New York University. His academic interests include the geopolitics of South and Central Asia, and the future of journalism and new media.

Article by Matthieu Aikins

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