In an apparent assassination attempt on June 16, 2016, Syrian citizen journalists Khaled Essa and Hadi Abdullah were severely injured when a bomb exploded in their home, according to Al Jazeera. Essa and Abdullah, who had been reporting on the crimes of the Assad regime and its allies since the uprising began in 2011, sustained serious injuries and were hospitalized in Antakya, Turkey.
Abdullah, the twenty-nine-year old from the city of Homs, survived following a series of successful operations. But Essa, the twenty-four-year old from the town of Kafr Nabl, died on June 25, 2016 from trauma to the head.
Two days before his death, Essa’s mother shared this heartbreaking message on her Facebook page:
To everyone who loves Khaled and is asking about him, I visited him at the hospital today. He is in a coma as a result of shrapnel in his head and had a stomach operation. I held his hand in the hope that he would feel me. I spoke to him in the hope that he would hear me. I told him I was going to buy him new clothes for Eid and hold them until he returns. I told him how much everyone loves him and is praying for him. I told him how much his friends miss his laugh, and that they ask about him every day. I’m not used to speaking to him and not getting a response. I’m not used to not hearing his raspy voice. I told him: ‘you’re strong, and you have a sweet heart, and everyone is praying for you. God willing, you will return relieved of all your pain, my love.’
Her post amassed thousands of empathetic reactions and comments. Countless others expressed their solidarity with and love for Essa through social media—praying for his recovery and praising him for his bravery.
After Essa succumbed to his injuries, Abdullah shared a poignant tribute on his Facebook page, stating: “I wish I were with you, I wish you were the one who eulogized me, and I wish the bomb had left me in a thousand pieces…damn it for not killing me.”
For many in the West, who are seemingly unfamiliar with his work, Essa is little more than another statistic to add to the nearly half a million who have lost their lives in Syria since 2011. Indeed, no major Western publications have profiled Essa or even extensively reported on his death. By contrast, when French photojournalist, Rémi Ochlik, and American journalist, Marie Colvin, were killed while reporting on the Syrian regime’s bombardment of Homs in February 2012, there was global outrage and grief at their loss, with major publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and TIME magazine paying homage to their bravery and work.
While Essa’s efforts might not have been recognized globally, those who continue to suffer the day-to-day struggles of life in Syria understand how important his loss is for the spirit of the Syrian revolution. After Essa’s death, many in Syria marched through the streets holding signs and pictures of the late journalist to honor his work.
But Essa did not die in vain. In an article published by The New Arab, Christina Abraham, a friend of Essa’s, wrote that he “persisted in the face of the world’s silence,” understanding full-well the risks and challenges of his work. In her words, “as the rest of the world wishes the Syrian problem would just go away, those who [Essa] left back here on Earth will continue the fight, only now with the memory of one more fallen comrade. If only he’d be the last.”