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Syrian Journalist Who Documented ISIS Atrocities Is Killed in Turkey

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 Syrian border, rights activists said Monday, calling the death an assassination.

The killing of the journalist, Naji Jerf, in Gaziantep, Turkey, happened Sunday, one day before he and his family were scheduled to fly to France, where they were seeking asylum. Unconfirmed news reports from Gaziantep said he had been shot to death.

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

His death is 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.

In October, Ibrahim Abdel Qader, a co-founder of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, an acclaimed effort by citizen journalists to document Syrian human rights abuses, and an activist, Fares Hammadi, were killed in southeastern Turkey.

On Dec. 16, gunmen killed Ahmad Mohammed al-Mousa, a member of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which takes its name from Raqqa, the northeastern Syrian city that is the Islamic State's headquarters. Mr. Mousa was killed in the Syrian city Idlib, which is held by rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Members of the group have gone into hiding.

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, an advocacy group based in New York.

"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, Turkish news agencies reported.

Aref Krez, a Syrian activist who worked with Mr. Jerf and had become close to him and his family, said 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, and he 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 violence. Mr. Jerf's death heightened concerns about security there.

[Source: By Karam Shoumali, The New York Times, Istanbul, 28Dec15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 30Dec15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.