Activists in Syria have confirmed that a philosophy student, who wrote of her experiences living in the IS-controlled city of Raqqa, has been killed by militants on the basis that she was “spying” on them.
Ruqia Hassan, who used the pen-name “Nissan Ibrahim”, was killed in September, but the news only became widely known this week. Hassan was detained by IS in August on the basis that she was spying for the Free Syrian Army, a part of the rebel alliance that opposes Bashar Assad, but is also considered an enemy by IS.
Hassan’s journalism was of a personal kind. Via Facebook posts, she described her experience of life in an IS stronghold, and spoke of the dilemmas facing Syrians like her, who oppose IS but also do not want to see a coalition bombing campaign by the West.
Her final post was prescient; noting that she was being followed and stating that she would rather die at the hands of IS than “live in humiliation”. She is the first confirmed female journalist to meet such a fate at the hands of IS, but activists there claim many others have lost their lives, despite being unable to confirm who they might be.
Like many Islamist militias, IS has regularly targeted journalists, and Hassan’s death is part of a broader campaign against people capable of enabling the dissemination of information from IS territory. One recent example is Naji Jerth, editor of an independent publication cataloguing human rights abuses in Syria. He was killed in December, and just this month, IS has released a video documenting the execution of people labelled spies for sending photographs of Raqqa to Turkey or running an internet café.