Militants from the Islamic State group murdered Sami Jawdat Rabah, an online reporter the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, his employer and a relative told the Committee to Protect Journalists following the release of a video showing his murder. The video also shows the killing of four other Syrian journalists and media workers.
The Islamic State group on June 25, 2016, released a 15-minute video showing the murder of Rabah and four other Syrians accused of working with media and nongovernmental organizations in Deir al-Zour, Syria. The 15-minute video, entitled “Inspiration of Satan,” is marked has having been produced by the local media branch of the Islamic State group in Deir al-Zour. The video, which CPJ reviewed, shows the five men confessing, apparently under duress, to collaborating with various media outlets and nongovernmental organizations. The men also perform re-enactments of their alleged reporting.
Rabah, who was professionally known as Abu Islam, had worked for the SOHR since 2011, the year the Syrian uprising began, contributing stories and images to the monitoring group, its director, Rami Abdul Rahman, told CPJ in a phone interview.
Islamic State group militants abducted Rabah on October 4, 2015, from Deir al-Zour, other SOHR contributors in the area told Abdul Rahman. His capture came five days after Rabah received a phone call from an unknown caller in Turkey who demanded he share information about the activity of the Islamic State group in Deir al Zour and his exact location. Although Rabah did not give the caller any information, he told Abdul Rahman that he felt he was being monitored by the militants and that their conversation had been recorded. At the time, the Islamic State group controlled around half of Deir al-Zour province.
Other victims in the video were also abducted in early October 2015, according to their families and colleagues. Abu Abdul Rahman, a producer for Free Deir al-Zour Radio, which is opposed to the Syrian government and the Islamic State group, told CPJ that a senior Egyptian figure in the Islamic State group arrived in Deir al-Zour in October 2015 and implemented tighter restrictions on journalists.
The exact date of Rabah’s death is unclear. In December 2015, two months after his abduction, several Syrian opposition news websites reported that four journalists had been executed by the militant group in Deir al-Zour. Some of these reports cited causes of death different than those apparently shown in the video.
In the video, Rabah says he is a 28-year-old independent journalist who had documented civilian life under the Islamic State group’s rule in Deir al-Zour, and that he had passed information about the group to colleagues outside Syria. Rabah is then apparently killed when an explosive device attached to his computer is detonated.
Rabah does not say he worked for SOHR in the video, but the monitoring body issued a statement on June 26, saying Rabah had been employed by them. Abdul Rahman, who is based in London, told CPJ he is concerned about the safety of the outlet’s remaining contributors in Deir al-Zour. They continue to provide information to the news desk, but Abdul Rahman warned them against shooting video and taking photographs. Abdul Rahman said he believes the video to be authentic.
Abdul Rahman told CPJ that he didn’t know when Rabah had been killed. A cousin of Rabah’s said the family had heard “rumors” in January that the journalist had been killed, but continued to hope he still was alive until video was released in June. CPJ has not named the cousin out of concern for the cousin’s security.