When the camera grapples with fire: the story of Mohammed al-Rashdan

“A little while ago I bought clothes for my firstborn son–God willing, in a few days he’s due to come into this world.” That was Mohammed’s final wish that he never saw fulfilled.

Mohammed al-Rashdan was a journalist born in Daraa province in 1992. A Daesh (Islamic State) bullet killed him on Sunday, July 10, while he was covering a battle between the FSA-affiliated Southern Front, and a brigade called Jaish Khalid bin al-Waleed that rebels accuse of being loyal to Daesh.

“He hadn’t even been married a year, and was waiting for his first child, but a bullet turned his kid into an orphan before he was born,” Waleed Nofel, a Syrian journalist who was a companion of Mohammed’s before leaving Syria, told the Syrian Voice.

“I was really afraid Mohammed would die–he worked in media since the Syrian revolution began, and covered the most dangerous areas,” said Nofel.

“Mohammed’s camera captured wide swathes of southern Syria, including the battles of al-Sheikh Miskeen, the liberation of al-Liwa 52, and fighting in the Quneitra countryside.”

“He photographed Assad’s barrel bombs, and was a witness to people’s suffering,” added Nofel.

The Syrian conflict didn’t just kill Mohammed al-Rashdan. A year ago, security forces arrested him as he was studying Arabic at the University of Damascus, preventing him from completing his degree.

He is the second son lost by his family to the war. Regime forces killed his brother Bilal in Darayya in 2012, and have not returned his body.

Mohammed is one of three hundred and seventy journalists who have been killed since the Syrian revolution began in March 2011. Many more have been subjected to kidnapping, torture, and threats from the conflict’s warring parties.

“Journalists face danger across all of Syria”, Abdul Hay al-Ahmed, a war correspondent, told the Syrian Voice.

“The Assad regime is the worst violator of journalists’ rights–it has killed more than 100 journalists in Daraa province alone, either by indiscriminate bombing as they were covering battles, or in prison cellars.”

In northern Syria, a Russian airstrike killed Ibrahim Muhammed Umar, a journalist and correspondent with al-Jazira Mubasher, on July 11 in the village of Turmanin in the Idlib countryside. He was covering Russian bombardment of the area.

Citizen journalist Mohammed Nasri told the Syrian Voice that all warring parties in Syria have committed human rights abuses against journalists, though certain sides are worse than others. No one takes precautionary measures to protect journalists, he added.

Nasri said that he was injured three times while working as a war correspondent, and was once transported to a neighboring country for treatment. The company he was working for didn’t provide him with any support, and left him to treat his injury on his own.

The Syrian Center for Press Freedoms documented 12 cases of journalists killed last June, 5 by Daesh (the Islamic State), and 3 by the Syrian regime.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) mentioned in a report that it had documented the deaths of 45 journalists killed in the first half of 2016, including one female journalist.

Journalists faced various sorts of violations during that time period, according to the SNHR. Regime forces killed 14 journalists, Russian forces 6, Daesh 14, opposition brigades 6, the Kurdish Autonomous Administration 2, and unknown assailants 3.

A recent conference in Paris discussed the issue of Syrian media professionals wounded in their line of work.

“The right of journalists to receive medical care has been brushed completely aside, and no agency has taken on that responsibility,” said war correspondent Abdul Hay al-Ahmed.

Journalists are among the most vulnerable people in Syria, especially those who oppose the regime or the Islamic State. Although the methods differ, their punishment is the same: execution.

Will local and international human rights organizations play an effective role in putting a stop to violations committed against journalists? Or are they content to count and document the dead?


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button