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Syrian Journalist Who Documented ISIS Atrocities Slain In Turkey


The so-called Islamic State shuts down Internet access in areas it controls and goes after journalists who report their abuses. Several anti-ISIS activists from the grassroots group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, or RBSS, have been murdered. Raqqa is a city in northern Syria currently occupied by ISIS. Now another journalist, Naji Jerf, has been assassinated. It happened in broad daylight in Turkey, a country once considered safe for Syrian activists in exile. Earlier today, we spoke to someone who knew him, Abdalaziz Alhamza. He's a cofounder of RBSS. He's currently in Berlin, where he told us about Naji Jerf's work, making documentaries and helping to train others.

ABDALAZIZ ALHAMZA: He was like a godfather for our group. If any problem happened us, all of us asked him for the solutions. He was a journalism trainer, so he trained thousands of the Syrian activists.

CORNISH: And I understand he was so well known, people called him uncle.

ALHAMZA: Yes, all of us used to tell him uncle because of the difference in the age. And he was so close and lovely to all the activists, so we used to tell him uncle.

CORNISH: What's known about his killing, which happened in Turkey?

ALHAMZA: Actually, he went to restaurant to take some foods to his daughters. And when he was waiting outside in front of the restaurant, a white car came, and a masked guy with a silence gun - he shot Naji - two shots in his head. And until now, no information about the killer, but all of us know that 99 percent - it's the ISIS.

CORNISH: So no word on the killer, but you believe it's ISIS.


CORNISH: And this is not the first time a citizen journalist has been killed by ISIS.

ALHAMZA: Yes, ISIS decided to target our members, our friends. Outside the Syrian borders, they trying to stop our work.

CORNISH: So you believe that they feel as though they need to go after the citizen journalists who are in exile, who are outside of the country now?

ALHAMZA: Yes, because they know that our work is so important, so they don't want any information from inside to be outside - only from their own media. They don't want any citizen media, any citizen journalist work inside the city.

CORNISH: But with this killing of citizen journalists in Turkey, what does that mean for those of you who are in exile? Do you receive threats?

ALHAMZA: Yes, it started to be a normal routine in our life. We thought first when we came to Turkey that we are in a safer place, but unfortunately, Turkey's not a safer place.

CORNISH: With the work increasingly becoming more dangerous, even for those of you activists who are outside of Syria, outside of ISIS-controlled areas, do you believe you will be able to keep doing this work?

ALHAMZA: Actually, yes, we will keep doing this work because all of us decided that we would not stop our work, even until all of us would get killed, or one day, we move back home to our city. So for us, all the things make us more powered to complete this work for our friends who got killed.

CORNISH: Abdalaziz Alhamza is cofounder of the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

ALHAMZA: OK. Sure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.