American Journalist and Activist Mom Found Strangled and Stabbed in Turkey: Reports

An American-born journalist and her activist mother, who was reportedly investigating potential abuse in Syrian prisons, were found dead in Istanbul

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An American-born journalist and her activist mother, who was reportedly investigating potential abuse in Syrian prisons, were found dead in Istanbul in a gruesome double slaying, according to multiple news outlets.

According to Turkish media, the bodies of Halla Barakat and 60-year-old Orouba Barakat were discovered in an apartment in Istanbul’s Uskudar neighborhood. (Reports conflict on Halla’s age, though she is believed to have been around 22.)

The Barakats were strangled and stabbed to death and their bodies were doused in a chemical that delays decomposition, according to local media and sources cited by ABC News. Istanbul police confirmed the killings on Friday, according to Reuters and their bodies were found on Thursday, according to ABC News.

It remains unclear when Halla and Orouba were killed.

Police officials told ABC News no arrests have been made or suspects identified, while sources said the Assad regime is a likely suspect.

The two women were friends of American humanitarian aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was taken hostage by ISIS in 2013 in Aleppo, Syria, and killed 18 months later, ABC News reports.

They had recounted memories of Mueller to ABC’s 20/20 in August 2016, explaining how they worked with her to aid Syrian mothers and their children who had fled the civil war in their homeland to find refuge in Antakya, Turkey.

Turkey has become home to more than three million Syrian refugees since the start of the civil war there six years ago, the BBC reports.

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Orouba had reportedly been active in the Syrian Opposition Council, an expatriate group working against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to Turkish media, she had also been investigating allegations of torture in prisons run by the Syrian government.

Halla, meanwhile, was working as a freelance journalist for ABC News and as an editor for the pro-opposition website Orient News, according to the BBC.

She had published previous reports in both English and Arabic.

Both mother and daughter were working to start a charity to support Syrian women living in refugee camps in Turkey, according to ABC News. The organization, which supplied the women to with yarn to create hand-woven items to possibly sell in the U.S. for income, was to be created in Mueller’s honor.

Tributes to the the women were posted on social media, including by one friend of Halla’s who wrote: “A Syrian journalist with a voice so fierce and true.”

“I’m at loss of words,” the friend continued. “No words can encapsulate Halla, despite only knowing her for some months. No words can encapsulate the anger.”

The Barakat family has, sadly, experience tragedy before, according to the BBC.

Deah Barakat, 23, Halla’s cousin, his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in February 2015, just as Deah was planning a service trip to Turkey to provide free dental care to Syrian refugees.

Deah was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry, according to the News & Observer. He had recently tied the knot with Yusor, who was studying biology at North Carolina State University, in December 2014.

Razan, also a student at NCSU, was studying architecture and environmental design.

The suspected shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, soon turned himself into authorities and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Police have reportedly said they believe the shootings were the culmination of a parking dispute between neighbors, though the others have said they believe prejudice was at play.

Hicks’ trial is pending.

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