Photographer Niraz Saied dies in Syrian prison
Nearly three years after the Syrian security services arrested the award-winning Palestinian-Syrian photographer Niraz Saied, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is dismayed to learn that he died in a Syrian government prison.
Niraz Saied ‘s family had not seen him since his arrest on 2 October 2015 as he left Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees in southern Damascus after being threatened by the Islamic State forces present there at the time.
His wife Lamis Alkhateeb, now a refugee in Germany, posted this message on Facebook on 16 July: “There are no harder words to write than these, but Niraz must not die in silence (...) Niraz died in the Syrian regime's prisons."
She did not say how she obtained this information but a family friend, Ahmad Abbassi, said Saied was believed to have died about 18 months ago, probably under torture, the Syrian Journalists Association and many others assume.
Human rights groups often accuse President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of torture and extra-judicial execution. According to the information gathered by RSF, at least 25 professional and non-professional journalists have died in Syrian government prisons since 2011. In most of these cases, the family has not known the exact cause of death and has not been able to recover the body.
“The confirmation of Niraz Saied’s death constitutes yet another example of how the Syrian regime systematically targets journalists,” said Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The full truth needs to be known about the circumstances of his death while held by the Syrian authorities.”
Saied was known for his photos of life inside Yarmouk Camp. One of his photos won the first prize in a photography competition organized by UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) and the European Union in December 2014. He met his wife while helping the documentary filmmaker Rashid Mashharawi to make the documentary “Letters from Yarmouk.”
Syria continued to be the world’s most dangerous country for journalists in 2017 and is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.