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June 24, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8816

Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) Arrests Syria-Based British Aid Worker, Seizes Aid Projects Funded By Turkish Charity Via U.S.-Based Crowdfunding Platform

June 24, 2020
Syria, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8816


 

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On June 22, 2020, On The Ground News (OGN) media outlet, which is run by Syria-based American jihadi reporter Bilal Abdul Kareem, reported that Syrian jihadi group Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) had arrested "British aid worker Tauqir Sharif," also known as "Abu Husam Al-Biritani" in Idlib. Sharif, 32, from Walthamstow, who lives and works in Idlib alongside his British wife, Racquell Hayden Best, had his British citizenship revoked in May 2017.[1]

In reaction to Sharif's arrest, Bilal Abdul Kareem also shared a short YouTube video on Telegram[2] demanding that he be released immediately or that formal written charges against him be immediately published and a clear path to justice written. He condemned HTS for having made many similar arrests without formal charges and trials, saying: "There have been too many incidents where people have been detained. There has been no formal charges written, and there has been no noticible trial. We have seen these cases too many times here. And we are calling for Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham to put an end immediately to these types of detentions without a formal charge that is written and made public."

Sharif's organization Live Updates From Syria, which identifies itself as an "aid team based in the heart of war-torn Syria since 2012- venturing where others fear to go," confirmed his arrest by HTS in a post shared on its Instgram account, which has 44,800 followers.[3]

In a June 23 update, Live Updates From Syria said that its humanitarian aid projects, including a school and refugee housing, have been temporarily forcibly shut down and taken over by HTS. The post further said that Sharif's wife and family are under house arrest by HTS security personnel.

On June 23, Sharif's wife Racquell Hayden Best, who is also from the UK, said on her Facebook page[4] that masked men had come to the family's home and searched their house. She also said that she had requested a formal statement from HTS but there was no official response. She urged the ummah to stand behind Sharif and fight for justice.

Sharif reportedly founded the organization Live Updates from Syria in 2012, supporting and assisting Muslim families there. The organization's Facebook page includes a link to a fundraising campaign by Bir ÜMMET ("One Ummah"), a Turkish registered charity based in Istanbul, on LaunchGood, a U.S.-based crowdfunding platform focusing on helping Muslims worldwide.

Currently, Bir ÜMMET runs a fundraising campaign titled "Syria Needs You Ramadan Appeal." So far, the campaign has raised £375,272, approximately $470,000, out of its goal of raising £400,000, approximately $600,000.

According to the Bir ÜMMET account on LaunchGood, the charity ran four campaigns, including the one that Sharif's organization on Facebook promoted.

The Bir ÜMMET website[5] gives a physical address in Istanbul: Şehremini Mahallesi Velet Çelebi Sok. No: 40 D:3 Fatih/İstanbul, as well as a phone number with a Turkish country code: (+90) 530 389 42 22. It also gives an email address, [email protected], but it does not include bank account numbers.

 


[1] Theguardian.com/global-development/2019/mar/04/aid-worker-stranded-in-syria-after-british-citizenship-revoked, March 4, 2019.

[2] Telegram, @ogntv, June 22, 20202.

[3] Instagram, liveupdatesfromsyria, June 22, 2020.

[4] Facebook, Racquell Hayden Best, June 23, 2020.

[5] Birummet.com, accessed June 23, 2020.

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