July 24, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8191

Turkish State-Run News Network 'TRT World' Staffers – Including U.S. Citizen – Receive Awards For 'Explaining The Truth' – From Al-Qaeda Offshoot And Designated Terrorist Organization Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)

July 24, 2019
Syria, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8191

From left to right: TRT World producer Hasan Arber,[1] HTS Official In Charge Of Local Management And Public Services Muayad Al-Hussain,[2] HTS administration head Fawaz Hilal,[3] TRT World reporter Obaida Hitto,[4] and TRT World cameraman Mehmet Faruk Yüce.[5]

On July 4, 2019, the website of Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham's (HTS) administration in northern Syria announced that senior HTS officials had given awards to three employees of Turkish state-run English-language news network TRT World awards commemorating their "contributions in transmitting the events related to the Syrian revolution and their desire to explain the truth regarding this subject." TRT World has an office in Washington, D.C.

The HTS officials – administration head Fawaz Hilal and Official In Charge Of Local Management And Public Services Muayad Al-Hussain – presented the awards to TRT World producer Hasan Arber, reporter Obaida Hitto, and cameraman Mehmet Faruk Yüce.[6] Hitto, an Indianapolis-born U.S. citizen of Syrian descent who grew up in Murphy, Texas,[7] appears to have lived primarily in Syria since October 2012,[8] and Yüce worked for Reuters for six years and Al-Jazeera for four years, in addition to working for TRT World.[9]

On May 31, 2018, the U.S. State Department amended its designation of the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front to include HTS and the group's other aliases, thus expanding the Al-Nusra designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) to include HTS.[10]

On July 16, 2019, it was reported that Turkish MP Oya Ersoy spoke in Turkey's parliament about HTS giving awards to TRT World employees. She asked, referring to the state of press freedom in Turkey: "In an environment where journalists can be sent to prison for a tweet, what is giving TRT and its employees the courage to have this dialogue with jihadi terror organizations?" Ersoy put forward a motion to ask Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay questions about the matter. The questions include: "What type of relations do employees of TRT and TRT itself, which is publicly funded and broadcasts publicly, and by doing so represents Turkey, have with this organization [HTS], which is derived from Al-Qaeda?" and "Has a governmental criminal investigation of the TRT employees who were present at the mentioned award ceremony been launched? Are these individuals still employed by TRT?"[11]

Click here or below to view a clip of HTS officials presenting TRT World employees with awards.


[1], July 8, 2019.

[2], November 14, 2018.

[3], accessed July 18, 2019.

[4], accessed July 18, 2019.

[5], accessed July 18, 2019.

[6], July 8, 2019.

[7], October 12, 2012.

[8], October 8, 2012;, accessed July 23, 2019.

[9], accessed July 23, 2019.

[10], May 31, 2018.

[11], July 16, 2019.

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