Niraz Saeed, a Palestinian-Syrian photojournalist, died in Syrian state custody in September 2016, though news of his death did not reach his family until July 13, 2018, according to Nidal Bitari, the managing director of the Washington D.C.-based non-governmental organization People Demand Change, and Saeed’s friend.
In a Facebook post on July 16, 2018, Lamis al-Khateeb, Saeed’s partner, wrote that Saeed died while in custody of the Syrian security forces after nearly three years in detention. Al-Khateeb did not specify the exact date of Saeed’s death and did not reply to CPJ’s request for comment via Facebook.
Bitari told CPJ on July 16, 2018, that the journalist’s mother, whose name Bitariwithheld for safety reasons, contacted a senior government official on July 13, 2018, who told her that Saeed had been executed in September 2016. Bitari said that another member of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, who did not identify himself by name, called the mother on July 16, 2018, to confirm that her son is dead.
After several months, Saeed’s family learned that he was being held at Damascus’ Palestine Branch military intelligence prison, Bitari told CPJ. Bitari in August 2016 told CPJ that Saeed was moved to Sednaya prison in Damascus, which is operated by military police. He did not specify when Saeed was moved from the Palestine Branch prison to Sednaya.
In August 2016, Bitari told CPJ that Saeed was charged with taking money from foreign governments as part of a terror plot. In July 2018, Bitari said that Saeed was held on anti-state charges that were likely connected to his work covering the humanitarian effects of the Syrian government’s siege of his home district of Yarmouk, a Damascus district inhabited primarily by Palestinians.
Saeed did not appear in CPJ’s annual census of journalists jailed for their work because his family requested that his case not be publicized.
Saeed had previously been threatened for his work documenting life in the Yarmouk camp where he lived, according to reports. His photographs were widely published, including on the London-based websites of Al-Araby al-Jadeed and Al-Arab online. Saeed’s photo essay "The Dream Continues," on the lives of Yarmouk residents, appeared in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir, and the Palestinian Al-Watan Voice and Al-Wattan. In 2014, he won UNRWA‘s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) photo competition with a picture of three young brothers awaiting evacuation from the camp.