Journalists in Syria and Lebanon have long been targeted by the Assad regime, and the press remains in the cross hairs in Syria’s “liberated” territories.
Abdullah Yasin, an army defector, rebel fighter and media activist who facilitated trips to Aleppo for many foreign journalists, was killed on Saturday by a group suspected to be affiliated with a small battalion in the Free Syrian Army. Yasin is the brother of Ghassan Yasin, an activist who is regularly featured in this column. Two other brothers from the family were killed while fighting against Assad regime soldiers.
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There was an <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/mohamad.dughmosh/posts/10151455353088903″ target=”_blank”>immediate outpouring of grief</a> in memory of Yasin. <a href=”http://youtu.be/Q85H2scrKXk” target=”_blank”>This footage of Yassin</a> was captured by Syria Deeply contributor Patrick Hilsman in February. In it, Yasin drives toward a recently shelled building and sees a man carrying a child. Unlike most journalists who might disassociate themselves from a conflict and stand aside as observers, Yasin, like many other Syrian media activists, decided to help. He gave the man and the little girl a ride to the field hospital.
Reactions on Twitter and Facebook to the killing of Yasin were swift, and rumors swirled. Some friends of Yasin quickly pointed fingers to Jabhat Al Nusra and other jihadists groups that Yasin disagreed with, and many took the chance to criticize rebels in Aleppo. In the tweet below, the author said: “All the victories of the armed groups are worthless when their ranks includes thieves who aren’t reprimanded, or killers who aren’t tried.”
> كل انتصارات حملة السلاح بتسقط وقت يكون فين حرامي ما عبعاقبوه .. أو قاتل ما عبحاكموه .. أو معتدي عالمدنيين ما عبردوه ويمنعوه > — Baybars ✌ (فقاعة) (@samikhaled_sy) March 2, 2013
Loubna Mrie, <a style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;” href=”http://beta.syriadeeply.org/2013/01/alawite-outcast-girl-lost-mother/#.UTNKlqWG2So”>an Alawite activist</a><span style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;”>, was reportedly at the press center and witnessed the crime, but</span> <a style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;” href=”https://www.facebook.com/ghassan.yasin1/posts/495260613871818″ target=”_blank”>appears to have escaped unscathed</a> <span style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;”>despite earlier reports of her detention by unknown gunmen. Posting updates to his 12,000 followers on Facebook, Ghassan Yasin said that two of his brother’s suspected killers</span> <a style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;” href=”https://www.facebook.com/ghassan.yasin1/posts/495203630544183″>have been captured</a> <span style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;”>and that the third, who frequented the press center to use the Internet,</span> <a style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;” href=”https://www.facebook.com/ghassan.yasin1/posts/495256077205605″>has fled</a><span style=”font-size: 13px; line-height: 19px;”>, perhaps to Turkey.</span>
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been a victim of incessant clashes and brutal aerial and rocket strikes since rebels took hold of large swathes of the city in July, and has gained notoriety as one of the most dangerous destinations for both foreign and local journalists.
But it isn’t just a fear from unpredictable Scud or sniper fire that makes Aleppo so risky. Some armed groups appear to be increasingly annoyed by the reports of looting by rebels and the backlash against extremist Islamic rhetoric that have been documented in protests in the city. Many activists and citizen journalists have been harassed and detained in recent weeks. Although Yasin’s death doesn’t appear politically motivated, the killing of reporters and fixers sends an intimidating message to the press.
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One of the few positive outcomes of Syria’s conflict is that after five decades of totalitarian rule, citizens who supported the revolution were able to break the so-called “barrier of silence.” Now, in an ironic twist, many activists are organizing a campaign this week to stop talking, in an attempt to honor the victims who died in the conflict.
<img class=”alignleft wp-image-5813″ title=”silence” src=”http://beta.syriadeeply.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/silence-300×298.jpg” alt=”” width=”240″ height=”238″ />“Silence for Syria,” as the campaign is called, is an online, group effort backed by prominent activists and writers such as Rami Jarrah, Ghassan Yasin, Raed Fares, Rafif Jouejati, Samar Yazbek, Adib Shishakly and Amal Hanano. Participants are “expected to change their social media profile pictures and periodically update their statuses and tweets on March 6 with a unified message while refraining from posting anything else,” Hanano said.
“The idea is for us to be silent for one day, because for nearly two years we’ve documented and spread endless media coverage of atrocities in Syria, and the world has remained silent to our suffering,” she added.