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Syrian journalists who sacrificed everything to cover the revolution

Hadi al-Abdullah, award-winning Syrian journalist who covered the revolution [Facebook]

Date of publication: 15 March, 2017

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The New Arab profiles five Syrian journalists who have faced exile, injury and even death during their coverage of the Syrian revolution, which enters its seventh year today.
Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, with the Syrian regime and some extremist factions declaring them 'enemies of the people' long before Donald Trump.

Since the start of the revolution six years ago today, March 15, hundreds of Syrian journalists and media activists have been forcibly disappeared, detained, and/or killed.

But this has not deterred many from continuing their work to cover the protests and then the atrocities of war.

Alongside proactive civilians including health and aid workers, the Syrian regime and a number of factions dealt with these journalists as an existential threat, given their role in exposing their crimes.

It would take volumes to do justice to the thousands of Syrians who took up the task of amplifying the voices of their people, but below are five who died in the line of duty or were forced into exile as a result of their work.

Hadi al-Abdullah

Hadi (1987) became a household name in Homs, Damascus, Idlib, and Aleppo. Originally a nurse from Qusayr in western Syria, Hadi quickly became involved in the anti-regime protests in Homs in 2011, using his mobile phone to film the marches and upload the footage to social media.

He subsequently appeared on Arabic satellite channels to speak about events in the city nicknamed as the Cradle of the Revolution.

Hadi was particularly involved in the protests at the famous Baba Amr district of Homs, before it was captured and razed by regime forces in 2012.

After moving back to his hometown of Qusayr, Hadi was the first to expose the participation of Lebanese Hizballah in the battles there alongside Assad's forces, before the Shia group admitted publicly its presence in Syria.

Hadi covered the subsequent battles in Qalamoun, but went underground after Hizballah allegedly sought to track him down. In 2014, he managed to reach northern Syria, settling in Idlib province, refusing to flee from the country. He was injured recently in an IED attack last year.

Hadi al-Abdullah won an award from Reporters Without Borders in November 2016 for his work, which he dedicated to the martyrs of the Syrian press corps in a tweet.


Khaled al-Issa

Many Syrians know him as the 'handsome martyr'. Khaled Issa was a journalist and photographer from the town of Kafr Nabl in the Idlib countryside.

He covered the protests beginning in 2011 and the clashes and massacres that followed.

He was injured in an IED blast along with Hadi al-Abdullah [both pictured right, Khaled (R)] while in east Aleppo, but he would die of his wounds later in Turkey.

Wassim al-Adl

Syrian activists remember Wassim al-Adl as one of the most courageous journalists of the revolution. Wassim died of injuries sustained in a Russian airstrikes on the town of Banin near Maarat al-Numan in October 2015.

Wassim worked mainly in the Idlib province, covering battles fought by the rebels in Idlib, Ariha, Jisr al-Shughur, Sahel al-Ghab and the northern Hama countryside.

Adl contributed to several media outlets, covering events on the ground in Maarat al-Numan and Idlib province, including on the front lines. Before his death, he set up the Maarat Media Centre along with other journalists.
Mohammed al-Sibaie

In Homs, from inside the besieged district of al-Waer, the last remaining rebel stronghold in the city, Mohammed al-Sibai has been covering life in the neighbourhood since 2011. 

He was originally a student of economics, before he left university to become involved in activism and journalism.

Mohammed has since used his mobile phone to film protests and regime raids, posting footage and social media. Later on, he would appear on Arab and Western outlets to speak about events in Homs.

Although his family had to leave the city, he stayed behind, covering bombardment, siege and starvation with the Homs Media Centre he co-founded in 2013.

Today, Sibaie's name is on the Syrian regime's list of people who will be evicted to northern Syria, but he has vowed to continue his journalism work there.

Tarrad al-Zahouri

Tarrad al-Zahouri (1975-2013) was a media activist and photojournalist who hailed from Qusayr.

Tarrad was present in the first protests in his hometown. He covered battles in Homs countryside, Qusayr and elsewhere in the region alongside Hadi al-Abdullah.

Tarrad was killed in Damascus province after a mortar shell fell nearby as he was filming a battle near Yabroud between rebels and regime and Hizballah forces.

(Reporting by Rayan Mohammad, translation by Karim Traboulsi)

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