Four years ago, BuzzFeed published “Raed Fares Will Keep Working to Make You Care About Syria Even if It Kills Him, and It Might,” just one month after he survived an assassination attempt in which he took two bullets, broke six bones, and pierced a lung.
On Friday, Raed Fares was murdered, along with his fellow activist Hamoud Jneed.
According to the Guardian, their killers, who have not yet been identified, “waited in a van outside an office the two men shared, followed them through the market, attacked their car then shot them when they tried to escape, according to a friend from their hometown.”
Fares was a Syrian activist and journalist who believed in a free and democratic Syria and openly spoke out against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) released a statement regarding Fares’ work and its significance:
Fares first became known outside of Syria in early 2014, when he started writing eye-catching, often sarcastic protest signs and sharing photos of them on social media. It was his way of speaking directly to people in the free world and asking them to help Syria. From there, Raed expanded his activism and journalism. He quickly became one of the most trusted sources of on-the-ground footage and information on Syria’s continuing conflict. With his death, many reporters outside Syria have lost a vital and increasingly rare source, and agents of misinformation will grow that much stronger in his absence.
When Fares was a speaker at the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), he explained why he persisted in such dangerous work.
“The question is, was it worth starting a revolution and confronting Assad?” Fares said. “It was indeed important.”
Fares also said, “The truth is Syrians are victims of two forms of terrorism. From one side Assad’s terrorism, and from the other, ISIS and other extremists’ terrorism.”
Last year in Oslo (@OsloFF), Raed Fares said, "Assad will continue to murder, but we'll keep going until our dream comes true: a free and democratic Syria for all." Now Raed has been murdered. He was so impressive — almost incomprehensibly brave. https://t.co/PmVUvNPHnW
— Jay Nordlinger (@jaynordlinger) November 24, 2018
In its statement, the HRF emphasized that Fares’ work will continue even without him:
Yet Fares has made sure that his work will outlast him. Fares was dedicated to teaching his fellow Syrians’ the skills they would need to build Syria’s democracy. He founded Radio Fresh out of Kafranbel in 2013 to give Syrians a source for unbiased reporting, working to counter fundamentalist narratives and the Assad regime’s propaganda. Radio Fresh trained more than 2,500 students in journalism, and employed more than 600 people. Fares also led trainings in nonviolent activism, and devoted special attention to empowering the women in his community, whose leadership he felt was vital to Syria’s future.
Last year, Fares himself reflected on the difficulty in silencing calls for freedom. Individual voices might be silenced, but as Fared observed at the 2017 OFF, “Revolutions are ideas and ideas cannot be killed by weapons.”
And as HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov — a prominent critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin — put it, “Raed was killed because his work mattered.”
It is up to the world now to ensure Fares didn’t die in vain.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.