- A freelance journalist captured by ISIS and sentenced to death hasn’t been seen since his colleague saw him taken away from a prison more than five years ago.
- Farhad Hamo and Massoud Aqeel were abducted and imprisoned by ISIS in 2014 while on their way to interview a local politician.
- Aqeel said he was tortured and was constantly threatened with being killed, before he was released after nine months and made it to Germany as a refugee.
- But Hamo has not been seen since Aqeel saw him removed from the prison in March 2015.
- His brother continued to look for him among ISIS hostages but he has not been found.
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A freelance journalist in Syria who was captured by ISIS and sentenced to a beheading hasn’t been seen since he was taken away from a prison five and a half years ago.
Even though ISIS no longer holds physical territory, and has greatly diminished in prominence, many of its victims are still unaccounted for.
Farhad Hamo was abducted by ISIS members in December 2014 while on his way to interview a local politician for the Kurdish broadcaster Rudaw TV.
He was abducted while with Massoud Aqeel, a 23-year-old English literature student that was working as a cameraman on the same job.
Aqeel told The Independent in a 2016 interview that they were driving down a highway when they saw it was blocked.
He said six militants armed with M16 rifles, grenades, and suicide vests forced the vehicle to stop.
“ISIS were waiting on the highway,” he said. “I don’t know if they were waiting for us or if they were there to catch anyone.”
He said they lied and said they were oil workers, but the militants saw media equipment in the car. He said that one man sat in the car and told them to drive into ISIS territory, or else he would blow up himself and the vehicle.
Aqeel was imprisoned for nine months, and he said he was tortured and threatened with execution for being a Kurdish journalist.
“They tortured us and interrogated us,” he said. “They beat us with iron bars, cables or wood, tying us to the ceiling by our hands.
“Every two or three hours one of the guards would come in and tell us ‘we will cut off your heads, we will bury you alive.'”
Aqeel was released in September 2015, returning to a war zone and later coming to Germany as a refugee.
But Hamo has not been seen Aqeel saw him taken from prison in Raqqa, Syria, in March 2015, he told the One Free Press Coalition, a collection of news organizations that covers media freedom.
What happened to Hamo next is not known.
An ISIS court sentenced both Hamo and Aqil to death by beheading in December 2014, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
They were put in a jail for 40 days before Abu Ayoub, a senior ISIS figure, requested that they be put in solitary confinement in Raqqa’s jail, Aqeel told Rudaw in July 2016, according to the committee.
The ISIS prison in Raqqa was able to hold thousands of people, Sky News reported in 2017, after the group’s hold on the region diminished.
It reported that the prison had “a tiny box for extreme punishment,” metal beds where people were strapped down and executed, a room where people were hung on hooks and flogged, and weight machines that bent people’s bodies.
But in 2019, Aqeel’s brother said he believed Hamo may still have been be alive.
“Despite multiple calls for his release by Rudaw Media Network and other outlets, his fate remains unknown. Neither his family nor colleagues have new information on his whereabouts,” it reported.
Aras Hamo told the Committee to Protect Journalists in February 2019 that he was searching for Farhad near Baghouz, a village in eastern Syria that was the last ISIS enclave in the country.
“Everything seems to suggest that Farhad is alive, but we don’t have evidence or real confirmation,” he said.
He said that Syrian Democratic Forces soldiers, who were backed by the US, said that there were 400 hostages, including journalists, being held there.
He said in April that authorities were trying to find Hamo and other hostages in Baghouz.
Hamo is still missing now.
Insider is covering Hamo’s case as part of The One Free Press Coalition, which raises awareness of the world’s persecuted journalists.