Majid Dirani, a cofounder of the local Darayya Media Center, was killed on February 19 by a shell from a Syrian military tank while filming the shelling and aerial bombardment of his neighborhood, Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, his colleague and co-founder of the media center, Sultan al-Shami, told CPJ.
Dirani, 21, was at the frontlines of street battles in the area when a military tank fired at the building he was using as cover, according to a video the Darayya Center published on its YouTube channel and a photo it published to its Facebook page on the day he was killed. The video was shot by Dirani’s colleague at the media center, Hossam al-Bokhari, according to al-Shami.
Al-Shami told CPJ that once the military tank left the area, they were able to retrieve Dirani’s body and his camera, which contained videos he had recorded just before his death. “In one of the videos, you can hear Dirani saying that the tank was hit by Free Syrian Army fighters… It also shows the tank’s driver aiming and firing in his direction,” al-Shami told CPJ. The media center is still deciding whether to publish these videos, al-Shami said, but it published a picture on social media showing Dirani’s lifeless body with his camera.
Dirani had worked with Darayya Media Center, a local media group dedicated to reporting news from the district, since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011. Beginning in December 2015, he also contributed to the Turkish Anadolu Agency as a freelancer, according to his colleague at Anadolu, Mohammed Misto, who was quoted in a statement published on the agency’s website and other news outlets. “We used to call him our ‘eyes in Daraya,'” Misto said.
Dirani, who was also known as Majid Abu Shafiq, had extensively documented the bombing of his district, according to his Facebook account, videos he recorded, the testimony of his colleague from the Darayya Media Center, and news reports. His older brother, Majeed, was killed Decemeber 7, 2013, fighting to break the siege of the city.
Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, has been besieged by the Syrian army since 2012. The district has seen increasing street battles and bombings since January, according to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory.