ISIS’s brutal beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in 2014 shocked and terrorized the world. The equally brutal executions of more than sixteen local journalists in the ISIS-controlled, Iraqi city of Mosul over the last two years have gone largely unnoticed, however.
Talal Abu Ayman is the latest of these victims, and the first of 2016. He worked for the Iraqi Media Network, which is comprised of various television and radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. He was kidnapped from his home in Nineveh, Mosul in early 2016. On May 20, Abu Ayman’s death by beheading was announced and his body sent to his family.
There is very little information about Talal Abu Ayman available online. He, like the local journalists executed before him, will remain, at best, a name, and, more likely, just a number.
Since capturing Mosul in June 2014, ISIS has imposed a series of draconian measures on journalists in the city. Systematically and brutally asserting its control over all Mosul’s media, ISIS compiled a comprehensive list of journalists living in the city, issued an extremely restrictive set of rules for journalists to follow, and kidnapped, tortured, and executed any reporter who dared defy its edicts. As a result, Mosul has quickly devolved into what Reporters Without Borders has dubbed an “information black hole”.
That is the world Talal Abu Ayman was struggling not just to report from, but to live in. The work he and his colleagues have been doing in Mosul requires extreme courage and resilience. They deserve our attention and our respect.
The following are the names of some of the other journalists killed by ISIS in Mosul over the last two years, as documented by the Journalistic Freedom Observatory (JFO), a press freedom monitoring group in Iraq: Maysaloon Al-Jawadi, Fadel AlHadidi, Nayef AlShammari, Walid Ismail Abdullah, Qais Talal, Ashraf Shamil Al-Abadi, Omar Younis Al-Ghaafiqi, Thaer Al-Ali, Firas Yasin Al-Jubouri, Jala’a Adnan Al-Abadi, Ghazi Al-Obeidi, Zuhair Kinan Al-Nahass, Yahya Al-Khatib, Azhar Adnan Rashid, and Jalaa Adnan AlAbidi.
The fate of many other journalists, who have been kidnapped or are missing, remains unknown.