Islamic State militants hacked into the Facebook account of Raqqa’s first female citizen journalist before proceeding to execute her in an attempt to lure other opponents of the terrorist organization, said a member of Syria’s most notable anti-Islamic State resistance group. Ruqia Hassan Mohammed’s execution was revealed last month even though the militants killed her as long as four months ago for her outspoken posts on social media. It was also discovered that the militants continued to run her social media accounts until very recently.
Mohammed is believed to have been detained in Raqqa, which happens to be the de facto capital for Islamic State, in July 2015. If sources are to be believed, she was killed in September the same year. Mohammed was a citizen journalist for Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered (RBSS), which aims to document and publicize daily life under the control of Islamic State. The group confirmed that since her killing, the terrorist organization has continued to access her social media profile with hopes of flushing out other critics as well.
Mohammed is the latest in a string of opponents to have been killed for defying Islamic State, which stunned the world by seizing control over a swathe of territory across Iraq and Syria in 2014. Only last month, the terrorist organization released a propaganda video, showing the killing of five men who had allegedly been spying for Great Britain.
“Her Facebook account remained open in order to entrap friends who communicated with her,” said an activist, who uses the pseudonym Tim Ramadan to hide his real identity.
According to him, Islamic State was using her social media accounts until January this year to send out messages to other critics, claiming that she was still alive. Ramadan’s claim was substantiated by the Arabic website al-Aan, which reported that anti-Islamic State activists had already warned of Mohammed’s accounts being used to identify the whereabouts of other political activists, both inside and outside Syria.
Mohammed, a Syrian Kurd who was born in 1985, wrote under the pseudonym Nisam Ibrahim. The Facebook profile for that identity shows a young woman with a liking for pink lipstick, bright eyeshadow and sequin tops. She also seemed to have a dark sense of humour. Her last post in July ridiculed an Islamic State ruling banning Wifi hotspots in the city.
“Go ahead and cut off the Internet, our messenger pigeons won’t complain,” she wrote.
According to Abu Mohammed, founder of RBSS, the young journalist’s last words informed about her location and the fact that she had been receiving death threats from Islamic State militants.
“I’m in Raqqa and I received death threats, and when Isis [arrests] me and kills me it’s ok because they will cut my head and I have dignity it's better than I live in humiliation with Isis [sic],” she is believed to have told Mohammed.
After graduating in philosophy from Aleppo University, Mohammed participated in the uprising against former Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that started in 2011. She stayed back in Raqqa after the city was taken over by more moderate rebels in 2013 before being taken over by Islamic State militants the same year.
Right from the start, Islamic State has made it evidently clear that it would show zero tolerance towards dissenters. So much so, an entire police force has been made in charge of enforcing a set of stringent social and moral rules. Severe transgressions of these rules usually lead to public executions. With this backdrop, only a few civilians in Raqqa dare to speak out against the control of Islamic State. Mohammed however had been a rare exception, using her Facebook page to offer regular updates on daily life in the city and mourn over the region’s censorious climate.
“Every day they ban, ban, ban, ban,” she wrote in one post in July.
Following a series of posts criticizing Islamic State’s announcement that it would further restrict Internet access in Raqqa, the public postings suddenly came to a stop on July 21, 2015.
Islamic State has been cracking down on dissenters now more than ever before. Between October and December last year, it is believed to have executed at least three members of RBSS.
Photo Credits: Sada Elbalad