Hometown Heroes from Raqqa, Syria

As the Syrian Civil War wages in its fifth year, we continue to see images and read news articles of how increasingly bloody and more complex this conflict is becoming. With ISIS having gained a stronghold in Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria, the situation seems ever more intractable and hopeless.

Meet Abdalaziz Alhamza. He’s a young Syrian journalist from Raqqa who couldn’t stay silent while watching people from his hometown be ravaged by Syrian dictator Assad, only to be further controlled and slaughtered by ISIS who continue to use Raqqa as the ISIS “capital” today. He and a few courageous friends started a group “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” to smuggle images and news stories of Raqqa out of the city and for the world to see. In addition to informing the world of the atrocities that are taking place in his hometown, his group works to counter ISIS’ propagandistic narrative that ISIS territories are beautiful, thriving places for people to live.

Humble, powerful, and relentless. Listen to Abdelaziz’ speech here: https://oslofreedomforum.com/speakers/abdalaziz-alhamza

On the last night of the Freedom Forum, a bunch of us hung out and were amazed at how bright Oslo was, despite it being 4:30AM. We, of course, had to take a selfie.

Oslo at 4AM!
Oslo at 4:30AM!

His colleague Hussam Eesa was there as well. When I asked Hussam how non-Syrians can help their organization, he said “We don’t need your money. Just your prayers.”

At the Oslo Freedom Forum, I listened to incredible speakers, activists, and practitioners who are defending human rights in various parts of the world in their own way — small and large. Over the next few posts, I will share a few highlights from this incredible meeting of a diverse, relentless, and courageous collection of people.