Two journalists shot, injured covering effects of Turkish shelling in Syria

Two reporters for the Hawar News Agency (ANHA), Gulistan Mohammad and Ibrahim al-Ahmed, were injured by Turkish gunfire while covering the effects of Turkey’s shelling of the northern Syrian city of Tell Abbyad on the Turkey-Syria border on November 2, 2018, according to news reports, the journalists’ employer, footage provided by Brazilian photojournalist and filmmaker Gabriel Chaim, and pictures posted on Facebook by local journalists Heybar Othman and Barzan Liani. ANHA, Othman, and Mohammad, who spoke with Chaim, blamed Turkish snipers for the journalists’ injuries.

Delshad Judy, ANHA editorial director, told CPJ that Mohammad and Al-Ahmed were covering the effects of the shelling by Turkish forces of Tell Abbyad’s Al-Munteh neighborhood, which had come under heavy mortar fire the previous night, when Al-Ahmed was hit by a live round in his left arm and Mohammad was hit in her right cheek.

“They were immediately transferred for treatment to the Tell Abbyad General Hospital, where Al-Ahmed is still recovering, but Mohammad’s condition was serious and she was subsequently transferred to the Mambij Specialist Hospital, where she underwent surgery and was placed in intensive care for 24 hours. She has been stabilized, but she cannot talk because of the injury in her jaw,” Judy said.

Turkish forces have been shelling the positions of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria, including the People’s Protection Units-held border city of Tell Abbyad, and on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River since the Istanbul summit on Syria, which was hosted by Turkish President Erdoğan and attended by the presidents of Russia, France, and Germany in late October, according to news reports.

The Turkish defense minister, Gen. Hulusi Akar, did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

News outlets, including ANHA, said that Turkish snipers killed 11-year-old Sarah Refaat Mustafa in the village of Tal- Fender, west of Tel-Abbyad, on November 1.

Gulistan Mohammad has been working as a reporter for ANHA, which is affiliated with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, since November 2016. A correspondent in the Tel Abbyad area, she has covered mainly women’s issues, according to Delshad Judy. Ibrahim al-Ahmad has been working as a reporter for ANHA since November 2016 covering social and political issues in the Tell Abbyad area, according to Judy.

In October 2017, ANHA reporters Dilshan Ibash and Hawker Faisal Mohammed died from injuries sustained during car bomb attacks in the eastern Syrian village of Abu Fas, where the two reporters were covering civilian displacement, according to CPJ research.