She had spent the year in Afghanistan targeting senior al-Qaida and Taliban members from one of the CIA’s most important bases.
Ranya Abdelsayed was less than 48 hours away from returning to the United States in 2013 when a colleague found her body in her bed at the agency’s Gecko Firebase in Kandahar. At age 34, she had shot herself in the head.
The next year, Abdelsayed was honored with a black star on the CIA’s vaunted Memorial Wall, which pays tribute to members of the CIA who, its inscription reads, “gave their lives in the service of their country.”
On Tuesday, the CIA will hold its annual ceremony to recognize the fallen, unveiling new stars on the increasingly crowded wall. But not everyone agrees that Abdelsayed – one of at least 19 CIA deaths in Afghanistan during the longest war in U.S. history – deserved that honor. Of the 129 men and women given stars, she is the only one to have died by suicide.
Nicholas Dujmovic, a longtime CIA historian who retired in 2016, said that Abdelsayed’s inclusion violates the agency’s own criteria – and that her star “must absolutely come off the wall.”
The famed memorial, he said, is reserved for deaths that are “of an inspirational or heroic character” or are the result of enemy actions or hazardous conditions. But, in addition to Abdelsayed’s, some stars have been awarded to operatives who died in airplan