Condolences for the deaths of Syrian activists Raed Fares and Hammoud Jnaid have been pouring in from around the world, after the two journalists were assassinated by unknown parties on Friday morning.
Fares, a 46-year-old former estate agent, was shot dead in the north-western town of Kafranbel by armed men in a passing van as he was walking with colleague Jnaid. A well-known civil society advocate in the northern province of Idlib, Fares had been active in protests since the beginning of the revolution in 2011. In 2012 he founded Radio Fresh, a radio station broadcasting messages of resistance from inside opposition-held areas in the country, which later secured funding from the US government.
Fares also helped create the Union of Revolutionary Bureaus (URB), an organisation in his hometown that went on to provide temporary medical and education facilities to displaced people and watchdogs documenting atrocities committed by the Syrian regime. He and fellow Syrians in Kafranbel started a social media campaign of uploading pictures of banners with messages giving messages to the outside world from within Syria. From offering condolences after the Boston bombings to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, residents often used news from abroad to draw attention to their plight.
— BeyondViolence (@Beyond_Violence) April 19, 2013
Before his death, Fares was in the process of opening a new television channel, Fresh TV, with the goal of filming a comedy series satirising the grim reality for Syrians living under the Assad government.
His activism had also earned the ire of Daesh; four years ago, two of the militant group’s gunmen shattered several bones and punctured his lung in a failed attempt to silence Fares.
Fares and Jnaid had also differed with Syrian opposition factions in Idlib, who protested the content in his radio show and his satire towards certain groups.
Despite opposition, Fares’ final posts on social media documented his continued involvement in protests against the Assad regime. Pictured with his sons at a demonstration, he uploaded videos captioned: “Demonstration against Russia, Assad and all kinds of Terrorism … Syria will be a Free Country”.
Kafranbel 21 Sep 2018
Me and my sons: Mohamad & Ahmad
Kafranbel Demonstration 😍😍 pic.twitter.com/uye23DCODy
— Raed Fares (@RaedFares4) September 21, 2018
In Kafranbel, locals said more than 2,000 people gathered for his funeral, including many who travelled from other towns.
The deaths of Fares and Jnaid were also widely mourned on social media by friends, fellow activists and analysts.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) November 23, 2018
R.I.P Raed Fares, the bravest nonviolent man I ever met. An immense loss to the cause of freedom in Syria and beyond. pic.twitter.com/C7ZZVVgaK0
— Weddady (@weddady) November 23, 2018
The Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression also released a statement condemning the assassinations.
“Fares will remain in the memory of many Syrians and non-Syrians alike as an iconic voice for freedom from Kafranbel, a town known for holding regular pro-democracy protests that criticise authorities and demand freedom and justice,” the group said.
Whilst the parties responsible are as yet known, assassinations of prominent military leaders have become a regular feature of life in opposition-held territories in Syria in recent months; numerous parties are suspected of being behind the killings, ranging from the Syrian government and Daesh, to opposition factions and even Turkish forces.