Contact: Barbara Becker, EqualShot, 917-727-1094
Syrian Citizen Journalists Win 2016 Civil Courage Prize for Resisting the Islamic State Through the Virtual World
New York, NY — Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, an underground citizen journalist campaign exposing kidnapping, torture and murder by Islamic State forces in Syria, will receive the 17th annual Civil Courage Prize.
The Train Foundation has awarded the prize of $50,000 since 2000. Recipients have played leading roles in resisting evil and injustice at great personal risk. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations from 1998-2003, will be the keynote speaker at the October 27th award ceremony. Greenstock also served as Chairman of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee.
Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) was founded by seventeen Syrian activists – a group of college-age friends – in order to provide information through the Internet about the actions of the Islamic State (IS), after the militant group declared the northern Syrian city of Raqqa as their capital in April 2014.
Working anonymously to ensure their safety, RBSS’s Raqqa-based activists secretly film and report from within the city. Information is then sent to members outside of Syria, who smuggle the news to local and international media and through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and their website.
RBSS publicizes public lashings, crucifixions, beheadings, and draconian enforcement of the Islamic State's dictates. In retaliation, RBSS has been declared an enemy of God by IS.
IS militants have abducted, tortured and murdered several RBSS reporters, along with members of their families. Often victims' bodies are displayed publicly as a warning to others. RBSS members have also been murdered by IS operatives within Turkey. Even those merely believed to be sympathetic to the group have been killed. Civilians in Syria have been arrested for hitting "Like" on RBSS social media pages.
The group has resisted hundreds of attempts by IS to hack their website, social media and personal email accounts.
RBSS has debunked IS propaganda that citizens of Raqqa – once a relatively prosperous city located near major strategic, energy-producing dams – have welcomed their presence, by documenting long food lines, shuttered schools and hospitals lacking basic resources.
RBSS has also highlighted the indoctrination of Raqqa’s citizens into the most fanatical form of Islam; reported on the perilous situation for women under IS’s extreme interpretation of Sharia law; captured on video the brutal murders of those accused of being gay; and raised concern for the safety of the Christian minority in Raqqa.
The group was awarded the International Press Freedom Award in 2015 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
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