I first met Eric Harroun, better known as “The American Jihadist,” over cocktails at a rooftop martini bar in one of Cairo’s Nile-side 5-star hotels. It was July of 2011, and Harroun was recovering from a recent arrest by Egyptian security forces following his involvement in the summer’s anti-military protests. The conversation was one of fervent indignation and outrage, but also one of paralyzing powerlessness in the face of impunity and injustice.
Yesterday, the same combustible combination of emotions— characterized by a tangible sense of conflict, passion, and despair—resurfaced poignantly when his sister announced on Facebook and then confirmed by phone that 31-year-old Harroun died of an overdose in his father’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. The family says the death was an accident. There will be an autopsy.