Monday, December 28, 2015

Syrian Journalist Who Documented ISIS Atrocities Is Killed in Turkey
New York Times
DEC. 28, 2015

ISTANBUL — A Syrian journalist and filmmaker who documented atrocities by the Islamic State in Syria and trained hundreds of citizen journalists has been killed in a Turkish town near the Syria border, rights activists said Monday, calling the death an assassination.

The killing of the journalist, Naji Jerf, in Gaziantep, Turkey, happened on Sunday, one day before he and his family were scheduled to fly to France, where they were seeking asylum.

Mr. Jerf had recently posted on YouTube a documentary on the killing of Syrian activists during the Islamic State’s occupation of the Syrian city of Aleppo in 2013 and 2014. It was recently broadcast by the television network Al Arabiya.

His death was the latest in a string of killings of activists and observers who have drawn attention to human rights abuses during the nearly five-year civil war in Syria.

Mr. Jerf had directed a documentary about Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which in November won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group.

“Syrian journalists who have fled to Turkey for their safety are not safe at all,” Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement. “We call on Turkish authorities to bring the killers of Naji Jerf to justice swiftly and transparently.”

The Turkish authorities have opened an investigation into the killing, Turkish news agencies reported.

Aref Krez, a Syrian activist who had worked with Mr. Jerf and had become close to him and his family, said that Mr. Jerf had confided his fears about being killed. He had approached French officials in Turkey to discuss applying for asylum, after having received death threats from Islamic State militants via Facebook and his cellphone. “He was mostly worried about his family because he knows what he was doing and could expect the consequences,” Mr. Krez said.

Mr. Krez said Mr. Jerf had told him that he discovered a bomb in his car a month ago.

“He was loved and respected by everyone,” Mr. Krez said. “He had a kind heart and his door was wide open to everyone. He believed in the idea of citizen journalists and believed in what they did, so he dedicated his time to train them.”

Mr. Jerf had encountered trouble with Mr. Assad’s government for his activism. In late 2012, he was detained and tortured, then fled to Jordan and then Turkey, Mr. Krez said. Mr. Jerf was as critical of the Islamic State as he was of Mr. Assad’s government.

Gaziantep, about 60 miles north of Aleppo, has become one of the most favored cities for Syrian refugees fleeing the violence. Mr. Jerf’s death heightened concerns about security there.

“Gaziantep now doesn’t feel safe,” Mr. Krez said. Many media activists he knows, he said, have secured visas to other countries and are thinking of leaving.

Mr. Krez said he was considering sending his wife and daughter out of the city for their safety.

Sewell Chan contributed reporting from London.

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