By Alexandra Zakreski
The family of Ali Mustafa, a Canadian photojournalist killed in Syria on March 9, 2014, is seeking donations to help pay the significant cost of recovering Mustafa’s remains and laying him to rest in his hometown of Toronto.
Ali Mustafa was a Canadian freelance photojournalist documenting the Syrian civil war. Mustafa was killed in Hadariyeh, a rebel-held area of Aleppo, by an explosion from a barrel bomb dropped by a Syrian government aircraft. Seven other people were killed in the bombing.
Sources have reported that Mustafa was photographing the carnage and debris from an explosion that had occurred moments earlier, when a Syrian military helicopter dropped a second bomb on the bystanders and journalists who had arrived to survey the scene. Barrel bombs are large barrels filled with explosives that are dropped from low flying aircrafts, and have been used frequently by the Syrian government in recent months to attack civilian populations. Such bombs are devastating as they cannot be specifically targeted and are indiscriminate in their destruction. Freelancers are the most vulnerable journalists covering the Syrian conflict, as they lack many of the protections that are afforded to full-time staff journalists. Yet with many news organizations unwilling to send their own staff into such a volatile situation, freelancers are now almost exclusively providing the world with on the ground knowledge of the conflict.
CJFE is deeply saddened by Mustafa’s death and remains extremely disturbed by the level of violence that journalists, both foreign and local, have faced in Syria. Mustafa was an experienced professional, having worked in war-torn areas for the past several years, with a particular interest in the Arab uprisings. He had previously covered the Syrian civil war, in March 2013, as well as the Egyptian protests in 2011 and 2012, posting live feeds of clashes in Tahrir Square. At the time of his death, Mustafa was in the midst of his second tour of Syria, crossing into the country from Turkey only weeks ago.
In 2013, Syria was ranked as the most dangerous country to be a journalist by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). According to CPJ, the danger is so great that many journalists have confided that covering the conflict is “not worth the risk.” Rory Peck Trust has urged freelancers to think carefully about covering the conflict, as “no amount of planning of or preparation can reliably reduce the possibility of kidnapping or abduction.” Even freelance journalists already working in Syria have warned others to stay away, stating that “it would be unwise (at best) and irresponsible (at worst) to go inside Syria as an independent journalist at this time.”
Despite the risks, Mustafa felt an ardent pull to cover the conflict firsthand, describing it as “the best of people I could ever know, the worst of fates I could ever imagine,” and in recent weeks his work was published in The Times of London and The Guardian, among others. You can view his work here.
Take action: Please make a donation and help bring Ali Mustafa home.