BEIRUT

Middle East

Artist behind iconic Syria banners shot

BEIRUT: Well-known media activist and artist Raed Fares was in stable condition at a field hospital in the northwestern city of Idlib Wednesday after being shot in the back by Islamist fighters.

Fares, 41, attracted worldwide attention with witty cartoons and banners from the rebel-held city of Kafranbel, in Idlib province.

The messages were frequently written in English, mocking the Assad regime, the international community, and more recently, the Al-Qaeda linked fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). Kafranbel remained an icon of the Syrian revolution long after the popular uprising descended into civil war.

Fares was driving home from the Kafranbel Media Center just after midnight Wednesday when he came under gunfire from two masked men, according to his friend and fellow activist Kenan Rahmani.

Rahmani recently completed a successful tour of the United States with Fares, exhibiting his banners.

Rahmani said he believed that Fares had been followed and pointed to ISIS as the culprits.

Fares had become a target for the group after publicly condemning its heavy-handed tactics and accusing it of working for the Syrian regime.

In December, the media center had relocated after it was raided by the group. ISIS maintained a limited presence in the town until it was pushed out earlier this month during battles between it and other rebel groups across northern Syria.

“In general, Raed is one of the most wanted people by ISIS,” Rahmani said.

“He went on all media and said the raid was ISIS’ fatal mistake. He organized protests against ISIS across many Syrian towns and cities,” he added.

Well wishes poured in for Fares across social media Wednesday.

“Raed took this tiny town of Kafranbel, of 30,000 people, a town that no one had heard of, and made it into an icon of the nonviolent revolution,” Rahmani said.

“When he publicly stated that ISIS was working with the Assad regime, he set the stage for a massive shift. This is now being talked about at Geneva and ISIS has zero public support. Raed has played a huge role in that.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 30, 2014, on page 8.
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Summary

Well-known media activist and artist Raed Fares was in stable condition at a field hospital in the northwestern city of Idlib Wednesday after being shot in the back by Islamist fighters.

Fares, 41, attracted worldwide attention with witty cartoons and banners from the rebel-held city of Kafranbel, in Idlib province.

Rahmani said he believed that Fares had been followed and pointed to ISIS as the culprits.

Fares had become a target for the group after publicly condemning its heavy-handed tactics and accusing it of working for the Syrian regime.

Wishes poured in for Fares across social media Wednesday.


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