On August 20, 2012, Alhurra Television correspondent Bashar Fahmi went missing in the Sulaiman Halabi neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. There has been no word of his whereabouts or well-being since.
“Bashar had the type of infectious smile that made you forget for an instance that you were in a war zone.”
Rudi BakhtiarFormer VOA journalist
in August 2016
Fahmi, a Jordanian national of Palestinian origin, was part of a group of foreign journalists reporting from Aleppo when a firefight erupted. Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto was killed while Fahmi and his Turkish cameraman, Cüneyt Ünal, went missing after the firefight. In a video that purported to show the deceased Yamamoto, a rebel fighter said the two Alhurra journalists had been seized by Syrian forces. That claim could not be independently corroborated.
Ünal was eventually reported captured and subsequently released into Turkish custody by the Syrian government. He was freed on November 17, 90 days after he and Fahmi disappeared. In an interview with Turkey’s NTV television, Ünal said he had taken his wounded colleague into an apartment building, but left to get help and was “captured by a group of people who later handed him over to Syrian government forces.”
Fahmi’s wife, Arzu Kadumi, told Deutsche Welle in an interview in 2014, “on the first day of Ramadan he told me he was going to go to Aleppo and do a story on how the people in Syria celebrate the Islamic month.” This was his first time in Aleppo.
“Bashar had the type of infectious smile that made you forget for an instance that you were in a war zone,” said Rudi Bakhtiar, a reporter for Voice of America at the time, in a detailed account—published in honor of Yamamoto in 2016. The piece describes the days immediately preceding Fahmi’s disappearance when she first met him and his travel companions in A’zaz, Syria. Bakhtiar had planned to travel with the group but was forced to leave Syria when she found out Iranian forces aiding the Assad regime were targeting her and planned to ambush and kill her.
In addition to Fahmi, American freelance journalist Austin Tice has also been missing in Syria since 2012. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria was the most dangerous country for journalists that year. Of the 74 journalists around the world who were purposely targeted and killed that year, 31 were in Syria and another five were killed in the country for unconfirmed motives.