On Friday, Raed Fares — a Syrian revolutionary, citizen journalist and civil society leader — was assassinated in northern Syria by masked gunmen suspected of being affiliated with al-Qaeda. He was 46 years old. Hammoud Jneed, Raed’s friend and photographer, was also killed.
The news came as a gut punch to me and many activists around the world: Raed was a friend, an inspiration, and a teacher. If I am to speak about what he taught me, I wouldn’t know where to begin, and wouldn’t know where to stop. But I write these lines to try to tell you who he was, why we are shattered by his loss, and why we were lucky to have had him.
During the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum, Raed began his speech by showing a video of the aftermath of one of President Bashar al-Assad’s massacres in Kafranbel, a small town in northern Syria where the dictator’s warplanes had bombed a marketplace. “It’s relatively easy for me to show you what happened. But it’s almost impossible to describe the smell that hung over the marketplace after the massacre — a smell of dust, gunpowder, burned blood and flesh, and burned vegetables.” He then asked a simple question: Was it worth starting a revolution against Assad, if the result was destruction like this?
Raed was there to tell us why it was, in his view, more than worth it. [Continue reading…]