Today we want to honour the revolutionary and photo journalist Khaled Al-Issa, who left us on this day four years ago, 24th June 2016. He was one of the brave youth who decided to stay in Syria and participate in the country’s struggle for freedom.
Khaled was born in Kafranbel in the countryside of Idlib, north-western Syria. As the revolution began, Kafranbel became famous for its witty protest banners. Khaled found his way to journalism hoping to convey and document the Syrian people’s struggle and living conditions during the revolution and subsequent war.
Khaled accompanied the journalist Hadi Al-Abdullah to provide on-the-ground coverage of the most dangerous battles. Although he had opportunities to leave Syria, he chose to stay in his country and document the violations and crimes committed against the people and use his camera and microphone to communicate Syrian voices to the world.
Khaled was well known for his activism in Kafranbel and was among the first to take to the streets in the early days of the revolution to demand freedom. He was also a co-founder of the Union of Revolutionary Bureaus (URB), a collective of civil society organisations committed to empowering community members (especially women and children) to achieve their rights through education, vocational training and cultural programmes and counter extremist narratives. The URB implemented a wide-range of projects including medical services, women’s centres and media training as well as running the popular Radio Fresh which held discussion on many issues and broadcast stories about daily life in Idlib.
Khaled suffered many injuries during the revolution, mainly due to his coverage of places under bombardment by the regime and its allies. He was not afraid to take risks and his work made him a target for those who tried to silence independent voices. He was subjected to more than one assassination attempt.
On 17 June 2016, an explosive device targeted Khaled’s home in the opposition-controlled Al-Shaar neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo, seriously wounding him and his colleague Hadi Al-Abdullah. They were transferred to a hospital in the city of Antakya in southern Turkey for treatment.
While Hadi survived, Khaled remained in a coma due to shrapnel lodged in his head. Attempts were made to secure a visa for him to be transferred to Germany for treatment but they weren’t successful. Khaled died of his injuries on 24 June. He was twenty-five years old.
Khaled was not the first to be killed for conveying the truth of what was happening in Syria to the world. Numerous Syrian and non-Syrian journalists and media activists have been killed in their line of work by either the regime or other extremist groups and many more endure the horrors of detention. Yet Khaled certainly holds a special place in the memory of Free Syrians as one of the revolution’s heroes.