In memoriam

Newspaper profiles Ruqia Hassan, the shy hero killed by ISIS for upholding “freedom and dignity”

Ruqia Hassan (Facebook)

A clearer portrait of Ruqia Hassan, the 30-year-old “citizen journalist” who was killed by ISIS in Syria for her outspokenness on social media, has been constructed by the Guardian from interviews with relatives, friends and others who had suffered under the siege of Raqqa by Islamist militants. Described by family members as shy and quiet, Hassan was nevertheless galvanized to speak out by her disgust at ISIS, convinced that “life is worthless without freedom and dignity.”

Hassan was not a formal member of activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS), according to one of its founders Abu Mohammed, but had joined some of the earliest street demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad’s regime and shared the aims of RIBSS. Members of the group were targeted by ISIS for its oppositional views, without regard to gender, and members were subject to persecution and public executions.

Hassan posted to Facebook,using the name Nisan Ibrahim, about the miserable conditions of the city — the repression under ISIS as well as bombardments by the Syrian regime as well as Russian and coalition forces — venting her anger and her despair. A philosophy graduate from the University of Aleppo, Hassan is remembered by one of her cousins as intelligent and determined. “She was sensitive and felt the pain of injustice. I teach philosophy and we sat for many night discussing human nature and freedom,” he told the Guardian.

Sometimes her tone was wryly funny, at other times weary and despairing. “Today, a Tunisian fighter stopped me because of my Islamic dress code,” she wrote. “I ignored her and walked away but I wished that I had a pistol to kill her. I wanted to stop this humiliation, these guys built their power on us.”

Hassan was warned of the extreme dangers of her outspokenness, by family and by Abu Mohammed, but she refused to be silent. She was arrested and imprisoned in mid-2015, and died within two months, although her family weren’t informed until New Year’s Day. In a cruel twist, her captors kept her Facebook page active after her death, using it to entrap her friends.

The Guardian describes the final months of her life as well as her final, defiant Facebook post.

“She became a hero in our village for her courage and being the voice of truth,” said her cousin Yehya Ali. “She was fearless … a little Kurdish girl [who] faced a brutal militia and exposed them. She will never be forgotten.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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