Seven years have elapsed since the beginning of the Syrian revolution. During this period of time, the peaceful activist Raed Fares did not stop protesting and demonstrating against the Syrian regime. He wrote the signs that he held during these demonstrations and organized the peaceful movement for which his city in rural Idlib, Kafr Nabl, has become well-known. Despite the threats he was exposed to, in these recent years, he insisted on staying in Syria, calling to overthrow the regime, and to reject the authority of the militant groups.
Fares was assassinated along with his fellow activist Hammod Junaid by hooded men in the center of Kafr Nabl, and the news of his “martyrdom” became a grim day in Idlib. The way he was linked to the Syrian revolution and his impact throughout the years he spent fighting for peaceful activity give the impression that the revolution ended with the news of his assassination, especially with the attention that was drawn to Idlib recently and the attempts to portray it as a black spot away from any peaceful civilian movement.
Born in 1972, he was known as the “famous sign designer” in Kafr Nabl. He was one of the prominent activists who committed themselves to taking part in demonstrations against the Syrian regime since the first day of the revolution until today.
Fares was the director of the local radio station “Fresh,” which criticizes militant groups, including the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. He was chosen as information officer for Kafr Nabl signs, and also the director of the Union of Revolutionary Bureaus (URB).
On the other hand, Junaid works as a photographer and has documented the events of the revolution and bombing over the past years.
Fares studied at the Faculty of Medicine in Aleppo. He started in 1990 and left after three years for personal reasons. He later moved between Lebanon and Syria, and occupied himself with several things, including trade and handling transactions.
Raed’s name stood out in March 2011, when he was active with his fellow, lawyer Yasser al-Saleem. Speaking of the spark that ignited the signs of Kafr Nabl, Raed said during an interview with Enab Baladi in July 2012 that the spark of revolutionary movement and the propaganda lies of Addounia TV channel (pro-regime) were both the main reasons behind the emergence of the idea of signs.
Originally from Kafr Nabl, Raed refused several international offers to leave Syria. Despite being threatened with assassination, he insisted on staying in Idlib. An assassination attempt by unknown people who shot him in 2014 put his life at risk. Back then, he was taken to the hospital and underwent a sensitive chest surgery.
The assassination attempt coincided with threats from al-Nusra Front, which repeatedly raided the headquarters of Fresh radio station where he worked in the early years of the Syrian revolution.
Al-Nusra Front, which has been merged into Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, has arrested Fares twice, first in 2014 with the photographer Hammod Junaid at a checkpoint in Maarat al-Nu’man, and the second time when he was with activist Hadi al-Abdullah in 2016 while they were at the radio station in Kafr Nabl.
During a previous interview with Enab Baladi, Fares said that “the pressure exercised by al-Nusra front was overwhelming. Therefore we had to stop.” He also clarified that the girls working in Fresh radio station and the music played during programs were excuses for al-Nusra to shut the radio station down.
Together with dozens of activists in Kafr Nabl, Fares was able to make it one of the most important cities interested in the affairs of the revolution and distinguished by its civil activity that was characterized by paintings and signs. These have caught the attention and were displayed in the most famous exhibitions, for they reflected a peaceful state aiming to express the Syrians’ point of view.
He was “modest” and always caught on camera during demonstrations in Idlib, along with his comrades. Some of them were martyred, such as photographer Khalid al-Issa, while others were arrested. The most notable figure was lawyer Yasser al-Saleem, who was arrested by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham when he was at home in Kafr Nabl in September 2018.
Since the arrest of al-Saleem, Fares has been calling for his release from the prisons of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. In early 2018, he posted on Facebook: “keep going with this hatred and continue igniting the strife, but I warn you that Kafr Nabl (…) is patient but when furious it will defend its children like a lioness and a roaring fire.”
Fares also stated that his friend al-Saleem was arrested while he was home because he spoke up and expressed his opinion. He is neither a criminal nor a murderer, but was arrested only because he expressed himself.
During an interview with “al-Ghad al-Arabi” in 2014, in the US, Fares sported the shirt he came wearing from Kafr Nabl, saying that he represents the people. He talked about the media work in the north of Syria, and that “media professionals, activists and journalists have become a target assuming the responsibility of protecting the Syrian revolution.”
Fares also declared that fulfilling achievements during revolution needs “sacrifices.” He pointed out that “the revolution destroyed al-Assad’s farm, but the homeland will be left for the Syrians to live in.”