Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Anti-ISIS Activists In Al-Raqqa Vow To Remain Resolute Despite Constant Death Threats, Assassinations - Mansour Al-Hadj

by Mansour Al-Hadj

"Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" (RBSS)

The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

In March 2013, Al-Raqqa became the first major Syrian city to be completely liberated from the Assad regime's control. As activists were trying to establish law and order in their city, infighting begun between different militant groups, eventually leading to the Islamic State (ISIS) declaring Al-Raqqa as its capital in early 2014. While thousands of Al-Raqqa's residents chose to flee and become refugees rather than live under ISIS rules, some of those who opted to stay in the city have decided to take it on themselves and risk their lives to expose ISIS's brutality and reveal its true nature to the world through the lenses of brave activists of the media group "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" (RBSS).

Despite being constantly threatened by ISIS in videos showing their friends and family members being executed, including by beheading, these activists have remained resolute and have vowed to continue reporting on topics that ISIS wishes to keep hidden. In fact, members of RBSS are being hunted, threatened and killed by ISIS and its affiliates even outside Syria. Aiming to deter its activists, ISIS has documented the execution of RBSS members and their families in a video series titled "They Are The Enemy So Beware Of Them" (a reference to Koran 63:4).

On January 3, 2016, ISIS released part three of the series, which shows the execution of five people whom it accused of spying on its members in Al-Raqqa.[1] Among those executed is Ha'il Marwan 'abd Al-Razaq, the brother of activist Manhal 'abd Al-Razaq.[2] Ahmad Al-Musa, who is one of the founders of RBSS, was mentioned in the confession scene of Faisal Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ja'far, who said that Al-Moussa had sent the activists money and asked them to open an Internet Café.


In late December 2015, Naji Al-Jarf, a well-known and highly respected director who worked with RBSS and produced an anti-ISIS documentary, was assassinated by a man carrying a silenced pistol in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Though ISIS has not claimed responsibility for his assassination, which took place a few days before his departure to France, it remains the primary suspect. In Fact, Al-Jarf himself had accused ISIS of attempting to assassinate him. According to a Facebook chat conversation between Al-Jarf and Syrian activist Rim Turkmani. Which was later published by RBSS, Al-Jarf wrote that he called the police after he saw a bomb placed under his car in November 2015. "I think this is something related to [the fact that] I oversee the RBSS campaign," he wrote.[3]

In November 2015, a group called "The Supporters of the Caliphate in Turkey" released a video claiming responsibility for the beheading of two RBSS members - activist Fares Hammadi and the organization's cofounder, Ibrahim Abdel Qader - who were killed in the city of Urfa, Turkey.[4]

The video featured a photo of a piece of paper being held in front of a building believed to be in Al-Raqqa with the following message in English: "You came to defend people from oppression. You came for the establishment of God's law. Warplane[s] are bombing and people dying because of your being here. Is this what you came for? Is this Islam?" RBSS logo can be clearly seen in the upper right side of that picture.

After declaring the "beheading of two apostate from the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently group, who collaborated with the crusaders against the Islamic State," the group vowed to "behead every apostate silently."  

In August 15, 2015, ISIS released part two of "They Are The Enemy So Beware Of Them" video series, in which the group executed three including the father of Hamoud Al-Musa, one of the founder of RBSS.[5]

In an article posted on the RBSS website eulogizing the senior Al-Musa, writer Rami Shareef wrote: "[Al-Moussa's] only fault is that his sons have rebelled against injustice in order to destroy ISIS's shell. [They have] rebelled, protested and photographed the group's injustice. His only fault was that his son is affiliated with the RBSS group, which those who call themselves "the Islamic State" are trying to silence by any means. They couldn't find a more painful [way] than executing uncle Abu Ahmad after 77 days in detention."[6]   

In part one of the "They Are The Enemy So Beware Of Them" video series, which was released on July 5, 2015, ISIS showed the execution of RBSS activists Bashar Abd Al-'Athim Al-Sa'd and Fasal Husain Habib.[7] In the video, an interrogator asked the two if they have anything to say to media activists "who are fighting their religion and the Islamic State." Faisal replied that this activity assists the infidels and added: "Do not let people fool you for money." Then, addressing information activists, Bashar said: "You are only harming yourselves, since [you cannot escape] the Day of Judgment."

RBSS also receives threats from ISIS members and supporters on social media. On February 13, 2015, ISIS fighter and hacker Abu Hurayra Al-Hindi posted a tweet asking hackers affiliated with ISIS if they had any information about RBSS.

On December 18, 2015, @1_soliman, an ISIS supporter on Twitter, posted a picture of the two members of RBSS who had been killed by ISIS in Turkey with a comment extoling the assassination.

The same account also posted a picture of another RBSS member with the comment: "Running away from ISIS's knives won't help you. Keep checking your necks."

On December 16, 2015, ISIS fighter Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir tweeted that ISIS security personnel had executed a RBSS member named Ahmad Muhammad Al-Musa, whom he described as "apostate" in Idlib.

To justify their execution by ISIS, @alsamrae8, another ISIS supporter tweeted that the RBSS activists admitted that ISIS had warned them that they would be killed if they did not halt their activities.                                 
Despite being constantly threatened and intimidated, RBSS has vowed to remain resolute, steadfast and to continue its media campaign against ISIS. In an interview published by Arabic news site Albawabhnews[8] in January 2016, one of the group's leaders was asked if they are going to stop their activities in light of the assassination of group members in Turkey. He answered: "The RBSS campaign will continue to the last man and we do not care about ISIS's ongoing threats and hunting of our members." In the interview, the leader said that the main reason its members are being targeted by ISIS is that they have successfully managed to infiltrate ISIS on many occasions and published news that it wishes to keep hidden. "The other reason," he said, "is for exposing the terrorist group's practices to the world by reporting about the real situation of civilians and the group's members."

*Mansour Al-Hadj is the director of the MEMRI Reform Project

[2], January 3, 2016
[3], December 31, 2015.
[5] See MEMRI JTTM Report, ISIS Executes Three 'Spies' in Al-Raqqa, Syria, August 19, 2015.
[6], June 23, 2015
[8], January 1, 2016

Mansour Al-Hadj is the director of the MEMRI Reform Project


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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