Silence would be the easier, safer choice. But silence has never been an option for them. Abdalaziz Alhamza and Hussam Eesa are two of the founders of the blog Raqqa is being slaughtered silently (RBSS). Since mid-2014, they have been speaking out against human rights violations, killings and torture committed in Raqqa by ISIS militants.
RBSS is one of the few reliable sources providing information from within the city. A network of journalists and citizen journalists still living in Raqqa provides the blog with photos, videos and reports documenting what is like to live under ISIS.
“When media talk about Raqqa, they forget that there is still one million people living there,” says Alhamza. “They are under siege.”
Reporting from Raqqa is an extremely risky job: since 2014, four activists who were collaborating with RBSS have been killed. The journalists inside Raqqa are those facing the greatest risks, but also those who are living in exile can never feel safe. They have been receiving death threats and their email accounts have been hacked. In October 2015 two RBSS activists – Ibrahim Abd al-Qader and Al-Moutaz Bellah Ibrahim – were killed in Turkey, in their home.
Although RBSS mainly reports about atrocities committed by ISIS militants within Raqqa, Alhamza says the terrorist group is not the only threat. The majority of the victims of the Syrian conflict is killed by government-led forces, not by ISIS militants.
Since the conflict started in 2011, more than 250,000 people have been killed in Syria. Among them, at least 85 were journalists who were killed in direct relation to their work, according to the Commitee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
It is a risky job, but Alhamza and Eesa have no intention to give up: “They threaten us because they hope to shut us down, but they will never succeed: we will continue resisting,” says Alhamza.
Watch here the interview with Abdalaziz Alhamza: