External Affairs

Syrian Opposition Activist and Her Journalist Daughter Found Dead in Istanbul

Orouba Barakat, an opponent of the ruling Baath party, and her only child, journalist Halla Barakat, were found dead with stab wounds to their neck.

Orouba Barakat and Halla Barakat were prominent activists against Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. Credit: Screengrab from social media

Orouba Barakat and Halla Barakat were prominent activists against Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. Credit: Screengrab from social media

A senior Syrian opposition activist and her daughter were found dead in their apartment in Istanbul.

Orouba Barakat, an opponent of the ruling Baath party since the 1980s, and her only child, journalist Halla Barakat, were found dead in the early hours of this morning with stab wounds to their necks.

Friends raised the alarm after being unable to reach them by telephone. Turkish police then arrived at their apartment in the Uskudar district on the Asian side of Istanbul to find them dead.

 Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has become home to almost three million Syrian refugees, many of them opponents of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Orouba Barakat’s sister Shaza also confirmed the deaths in a Facebook post, saying the two “were assassinated at the hands of injustice and tyranny”.

“Orouba wrote headlines on the first page and she pursued criminals and exposed them. Her name and her daughter’s name, Hala, now made first page headlines.”

She said her sister had opposed the Assad government from the 1980s, going back to the rule of Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez.

The Yeni Safak daily said Orouba, 60, had carried out investigations into alleged torture in prisons run by the Assad government.

It said she had initially lived in Britain, then the United Arab Emirates, before coming to Istanbul.

Halla Barakat, 22, was employed by a website called Orient News and had also for a time worked for Turkish state broadcaster TRT.  She was an American-Syrian national.

Her cousin, Deah Barakat, was one of three Muslim students killed as part of the Chapel Hill shooting in the United States in 2015.

Razan Saffour, a journalist and a friend of Halla, said the family had been threatened by Syrian government supporters before and that the Syrian journalist community in Istanbul were “shocked” at the killings.

“In Istanbul there are a lot more opposition members and senior journalists who have more influence. We’re just shocked that they were killed.”

“That it happened in a compound is more shocking. They took precautions to live in a compound.”

Another friend who has asked to remain anonymous said that “they never had fear”.

“Everywhere she [Halla] went, she always wore the Syrian revolution flag. All she ever shared on Facebook was revolutionary-related. She wouldn’t even share her personal moments of happiness. They knew what they stood for. They never had fear.”

“What’s horrifying about this is that not only did they target a woman and their daughter, it was at home and was a stabbing. It takes it to a whole new level.”

Syrian activist Rami Jarrah wrote on Facebook that the family says the killings may be traced to Orouba’s opposition activities.

Previous killings

Syrian opposition activists and journalists have repeatedly complained of threats to their security.

Naji Jerf was called 'Uncle' by Syrian activists for training young reporters. Credit: Fcaeboo

Naji Jerf was called ‘Uncle’ by Syrian activists for training young reporters. Credit: Fcaebook

In October 2015, Syrian journalists Ibrahim Abdul Qader and Fares Hamidi from the city of Raqqa were beheaded in the Turkish town of Urfa. They had worked with the group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently to document human rights abuses committed by ISIS in the city.

In the same year Naji Jerf, a prominent Syrian journalist known for his opposition to both President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, was shot dead in the Turkish town of Gaziantep.

This article was originally published on Middle East Eye and is republished here with permission.