People on Monday carry the coffin of filmmaker Naji Jerf, who was killed  December 27, in Gaziantep, Turkey.
STR/AFP/Getty Images
People on Monday carry the coffin of filmmaker Naji Jerf, who was killed December 27, in Gaziantep, Turkey.

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Naji Jerf had received death threats from ISIS and was preparing to go to France with his family, friend says

Jert was known as a filmmaker and for his commitment to telling the stories of ordinary Syrians

(CNN) —  

A well-known Syrian activist and documentary filmmaker was gunned down in broad daylight in a major Turkish city on Sunday by unknown assailants.

Naji Jerf was shot and killed in downtown Gaziantep, outside an office building that houses opposition Syrian news outlets. The assailants have not been identified, but Syrian activists and friends have pointed the finger at ISIS for the midday attack.

Zara Hasan, a Syrian activist who accompanied Jerf to a hospital after he was shot, told CNN that Jerf has been receiving death threats from ISIS over fake Facebook accounts. The threats intensified after Jerf released a documentary called “Vilayah Haleb,” Hasan said. The documentary was a chronicle of ISIS’ killing of media activists and a health worker in Aleppo after ISIS fighters swept into parts of the province in 2013 and 2014. Jerf was preparing to leave Gaziantep for France with his family, Hasan said. The father of two young daughters, Jerf died at the hospital due to a head shot wound.

Gaziantep, a Turkish city bordering Syria, is home to many refugees, and activists have set up media organizations and NGOs in the city due to its proximity to Syria. “I do expect and hope that the Turkish authorities will find the killer, if not we won’t forget him and this case will not be forgotten,” Hasan said. The Gaziantep governorship declined to comment on the investigation into the murder.

Jerf was liked by many Syrian opposition activists. His most recent work was with the activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which has been one of the groups at the forefront of documenting ISIS atrocities in Raqqa. Jerf directed the group’s most recent documentary, which chronicled the daily lives of Syrians living under the brutal reign of the so-called Islamic State.

Jert was known among Syrian activists for his work as a filmmaker and beloved for his unwavering commitment to telling the stories of ordinary Syrians suffering under the brutal violence of both ISIS and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. He was the editor of an anti-regime magazine called Hintah. He first fled Syria after Assad’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.

Activists and friends called Jerf “uncle” out of respect for his dedication and his ability to mediate disputes. Jerf also ran a media activist training effort called Citizen Journalism where he helped Syrian activists learn to shoot and edit video.

His killing has sent chills through the Syrian community of activists living in Gaziantep.

Two months ago, two Syrian activists were found murdered by ISIS in the nearby city of Sanliurfa. Ibrahim Abd al-Qader and Fares Hamadi worked for a media outlet called Eye on the Homeland, which documented ISIS’s brutality in Syria. Abd al-Qader was one of the founding members of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.