Award-winning Palestinian photographer ‘dies in Syria jail’

Soldiers walk past damaged buildings in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus, Syria. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 16 July 2018
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Award-winning Palestinian photographer ‘dies in Syria jail’

  • Niraz Saied was arrested by security forces in October 2015

BEIRUT: An award-winning Palestinian-Syrian photographer who documented life in the Yarmuk refugee camp in southern Damascus has died after nearly three years in regime detention, his partner said on Monday.
Niraz Saied, who himself hailed from the Palestinian camp, was arrested by security forces in October 2015.
His longtime partner, Lamis Alkhateeb, wrote on Facebook on Monday that Saied had died while in detention. He was believed to be 27 years old.
“There’s nothing harder than writing these words, but Niraz doesn’t die in silence,” wrote Alkhateeb, who lives in Germany.
“They killed my darling, my husband, my Niraz — they killed you, my soul. Niraz died in the Syrian regime’s prisons,” she wrote.
It was not clear how Alkhateeb had learned of Saied’s death, and she did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for additional comment.
Their relationship had formed part of the 2014 film “Letters from Yarmuk,” which featured clips filmed by Saied of daily life in the battered, besieged camp.
That same year, Saied won a photography competition run by the United Nations’ Palestinian agency (UNRWA) with a snapshot titled “The Three Kings.”
It depicted the downtrodden faces of three brothers waiting to be evacuated from the camp for medical treatment.
“You can’t find a complete family in the refugee camp,” Saied said after winning the award.
“I used to feel that in every portrait of a Palestinian family you could see the shadow of a person missing, and that is why my photos are dimly lit. But there is always hope.”
Yarmuk was once a thriving southern district of Syria’s capital home to more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees as well as Syrians.
Syria’s government imposed a crippling siege on it in 2012 and activists inside — including Saied — documented the dire humanitarian situation with photographs of gaunt families waiting for aid.
The Daesh group overran the camp in 2015. In May, after a blistering government assault, the ruins of the camp returned to government control.
Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been forcibly disappeared since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011, the vast majority by government forces.
Rights groups have accused the regime of large-scale torture and extrajudicial killing in its prisons.
Families of detainees often hear nothing after the arrest, but in recent months some are discovering their detained relatives have been officially registered as deceased.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said that within less than a month, some 28 families were either informed their detained relative was dead or told to come retrieve the body.
Hundreds more discovered their relative was recorded as “deceased” by government agencies while filing other kinds of paperwork.
Saied’s childhood friend Ahmad Abbasi described him as “the finest person I knew.”
“In the early days of his detention, we heard that he was still alive. Then we didn’t know anything.”


Iranian navy mounts new defense system on warship

Updated 18 August 2018
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Iranian navy mounts new defense system on warship

  • The US military’s Central Command confirms it has seen increased Iranian naval activity
  • Iran has developed a large domestic weapons industry to achieve self-sufficiency

DUBAI: Iran’s navy has mounted a locally built advanced defensive weapons system on one of its warships for the first time, the Iranian navy chief was quoted as saying on Saturday, as tensions mount with the US military in the Gulf.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed earlier this month it held war games in the Gulf, saying they were aimed at “confronting possible threats” by enemies.
The US military’s Central Command confirmed it had seen increased Iranian naval activity, extending to the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments the Revolutionary Guards have threatened to block.
Iran has been furious over US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran.
Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi “reiterated that coastal and sea testing of the short range defense Kamand system were concluded successfully, and said this system was mounted ... on a warship and will be mounted on a second ship soon,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported,
The Kamand has been dubbed the “Iranian Phalanx” after an automated machine gun produced by US firm Raytheon whose heavy bullets shred incoming missiles.
Unable to import many weapons because of international sanctions and arms embargoes, Iran has developed a large domestic weapons industry to achieve self-sufficiency in producing military equipment, and often reports on its development of arms which it says are comparable with advanced Western systems.