Syrian journalist murdered in Turkey, wrote premonitory letter

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by Syrian journalist Naji Jerf’s murder yesterday in southeastern Turkey. Jerf had told RSF about the threats he had been getting and had just obtained a visa for France, to which he had planned to move next month.

Jerf was gunned down in broad daylight in Gaziantep, where he had worked for the past three years. The founder and editor of the opposition magazine Henta, he had made several films about atrocities by both Islamic State and the Syrian government.

RSF was in close touch with Jerf and supported his visa application. He had dreamed of offering his two daughters the “level of higher education” available in France.

In his visa application letter, he said he feared for his safety and would like to live in a country that “respects human rights.” France gave him the protection he sought but his killers acted before he left.

In a letter in July to the French ambassador in Turkey in support of his application, he wrote: “I now live in the Turkish city of Gaziantep and my safety is more and more difficult after an increase in the threats to me and my family, above all because I am a secularist and belong to the Ismaili minority, which is targeted by the Jihadis.”

“Jerf’s murder has again demonstrated the vulnerability of Syrian refugee journalists in Turkey and has sent an intimidatory message to all of his colleagues, one that is unacceptable,” said RSF secretary ­general Christophe Deloire.

“We urge the Turkish authorities to shed all possible light on this case. The government must finally take whatever measures are necessary to guarantee the security of Syrian exile journalists.”

Originally from Salamiyah, in Hama province, Jerf covered government human rights abuses and coordinated the work of citizen-journalists after the start of the uprising in 2011. When government intelligence officers identified him and ransacked his office in October 2012, he went into hiding and fled the country a month later.

He continued working as a journalist in Gaziantep and, from time to time, provided training to other Syrian independent journalists.

The threats against Jerf began to increase this past summer because of his coverage of atrocities by Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). His film “ISIL in Aleppo,” which documented the Islamic State’s execution of many Syrian activists, was released last month.

Jerf was also in contact with Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a citizen-journalist collective whose members are being pursued by Islamic State, which has declared them to be “enemies of God.”

No group has so far claimed his murder. Islamic State claimed responsibility for Syrian citizen-journalist Ibrahim Abd al-Qader’s murder on 30 October in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa.

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Updated on 01.05.2016