The US State Department said Friday that it condemned the murders in Istanbul of a veteran Syrian opposition activist and her journalist daughter, a US citizen, and promised to closely follow the Turkish investigation into what is being described by supporters as an assassination.
In a statement, the State Department said it was “saddened” by news that Arouba Barakat, 60 and Hala Barakat, 23, had been found dead in their home Friday and wrote that Washington “condemns the perpetrators of these murders” and “will closely follow the investigation.”
Deeply saddened by deaths of Arouba Barakat & US citizen Hala Barakat. We condemn the perpetrators & will follow the investigation closely. pic.twitter.com/phuh1kKl1T
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) September 22, 2017
Friends raised the alarm after being unable to reach Arouba Barakat and her daughter by telephone for two days, the Dogan and Anadolu news agencies said.
Turkish police then arrived at their apartment in the Uskudar district on the Asian side of Istanbul and found both women dead.
Anadolu said the police investigation concluded they had been stabbed to death. Unconfirmed reports said that their throats had been cut.
— Syrian American Cncl (@sa_council) September 22, 2017
The Hurriyet daily said forensic investigators believed that they had been killed two or three days ago and the attacker had poured lime over the corpses and wrapped them in blankets to prevent any smell.
‘Hand of tyranny’
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has become home to almost three million Syrian refugees, many of them opponents of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The killings unleashed a wave of shock and mourning among the exiled Syrian opposition, whose National Coalition grouping is based in Istanbul.
“The hand of terrorism and tyranny is the prime suspect in this heinous crime of assassination,” the National Coalition said in a statement.
“We are confident that the investigations by the Turkish authorities will reveal the details,” it added.
Riad Hijab of its High Negotiations Committee hailed their “revolution of pen, (and) restless pulse,” vowing: “Their murderer won’t succeed and shall be brought to justice.”
Aroubeh Barakat’s sister Shaza also confirmed the deaths in a Facebook post, saying the two “were assassinated at the hands of injustice and tyranny.”
She said her sister had opposed the Assad regime from the 1980s going back to the rule of Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez.
The Yeni Safak daily said Arouba Barakat had carried out investigations into alleged torture in prisons run by the Assad regime.
Reports said she had fled Syria under the rule of Hafez al-Assad in the 1980s and initially lived in Britain, then the United Arab Emirates before coming to Istanbul.
The National Coalition said Arouba Barakat had taken “honorable positions and played an active role in the Syrian revolution,” adding that the impact of her actions would last long after her death.
Hala Barakat, 22, was working for a website called Orient News and had also for a time worked as a news editor for Turkish state broadcaster TRT’s English-language channel TRT World.
The mother and daughter had known and had befriended American national Kayla Mueller, before her kidnapping by the Islamic State terror group, according to reports. Mueller died in captivity in 2015.
The family was also related to three Syrian-Americans who were killed in North Carolina in 2015 in what is believed to have been an anti-Muslim hate crime.
Syrian opposition activists and journalists based in Turkey have repeatedly complained of threats to their security.
Two Syrian journalists from the city of Raqqa who were opposed to the Islamic State terror group and were found beheaded in southern Turkey in 2015.
Syrian filmmaker Naji Jerf was assassinated in southern Turkey in December 2015 after producing anti-Islamic State documentaries.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on the Turkish authorities “to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice” over the latest killings.
The media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has called on Turkey’s government to protect Syrian journalists in exile in the country.