Crime

The Syrian Opposition mourns the death of prominent activists Raed Fares and Hamoud Junayd

Syria

The town of Kafr Nabl in Syria's Idlib Province is still reeling from the deaths of the two activists, Raed Fares and Hamoud Junayd, five days after both men were shot and killed in cold blood outside their office

The Syrian town of Kafr Nabl mourned the loss of two key activists, Raed Fares and Hamoud Junayd, over the weekend. Both were well-known within the Syrian Opposition for their anti-Regime slogans and opposition to extremism. The two men were gunned down in cold blood as they left their office on Friday. Junayd was killed on the spot while Fares later died from his injuries in hospital.

Their deaths have sent shockwaves throughout Opposition circles in Syria and the wider region. Fares and his long-term assistant Junayd were stalwarts of the Syrian Revolution, engaging in protests during the early days of the uprising in 2011. Despite the continuous threats made against them over the years, both remained in Syria until their deaths, aiming to bring justice to the Syrian people.

Following the initial gains made by Opposition forces, Fares set up Radio Fresh in 2012 to broadcast news and music from Opposition-held areas, and strived to provide “a true depiction” of events in Syria. Later that year in December, Fares established the Union of Revolutionary Bureaus (UBS), a civil society organisation located in Kafr Nabl, aimed at promoting social justice and equality.

Both men were also known for their sharp, innovative and colourful criticism of the Regime and extremist groups. They drew attention to the plight of the Syrian people and explained clearly that the choice was not merely between extremists and the regime.

While the killers are yet to be identified, many people have pointed the finger at Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a coalition of extremist groups operating across large swathes of Idlib Province in north-western Syria. HTS has been responsible for numerous assassinations in Idlib in recent months, as well as the arrests of activists for protesting against them. The group also recently set about confiscating property belonging to local Christians.

For Fares, however, this was not his first encounter with extremist factions, especially HTS-related groups. In recent months, HTS ordered Fares to stop playing music from his radio station. Back in 2016, the main group within the HTS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), told him to stop hiring women, and shut down the station until he complied with their orders. Fares was even arrested by an Al Qaeda-linked group in 2014, only to be released a few days later after being beaten and tortured.

This did not dampen his resolve. In response to these threats, Fares recorded women’s voices, used software to turn them into more male-sounding voices, and played them through his station. He even began to play animal noises instead of music through Radio Fresh in defiance of HTS’ censorship.

In response to his killing, protesters took to the street of Kafr Nabl on Friday. Carrying placards, hand-written slogans, and waving the revolutionary flag, protesters called out HTS (referring to it by its former name Jabhat al-Nusra) and singled the group’s leader, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani.

“We came here to stop Jabhat al-Nusra. We are against their arrests and killings,” said Ali Aliaan, a local protester. “We want to say to the pig Joulani, take your thugs and informants and get out of here!”

In a conflict that has spilt so much blood and cost so many lives, Fares’s death has triggered an emotional outpouring online and resonated with many Syrians who believe in the principles and ideals that he stood for.