Idlib woman shot dead by Syrian jihadists, sparking protests, dies

The death of the 28-year-old has sparked further protests against the jihadist group.

Fuel smuggling is just one of many informal means used by Syrians in poverty-stricken northwestern Syria. [Getty]

A woman who sparked protests in opposition-held northwest Syria after she was shot in the head by the radical Islamist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) died on Monday, local sources reported.

Fatima al-Hamid, 28, was shot dead on February 10, apparently for trying to smuggle fuel between Idlib and Aleppo provinces. HTS, which controls much of Idlib province, prohibits individuals from importing fuel from areas held by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), a rival opposition militia.

Al-Hamid was transferred to a Turkish hospital the same day as the shooting, where she remained until her death.

The murder of al-Hamid caused mass protests and popular anger against HTS, especially in the displacement camps of Atmeh, where Hamid lived. HTS reportedly responded with force, beating and arresting protesters.

Popular outrage was not limited to Idlib, however, with news of the shooting circulating on social media and provoking condemnation Syrians in the Diaspora. After receiving news of his death on Monday, al-Hamid’s relatives protested again, attacking HTS checkpoints.

In response, HTS officials issued a rare apology and promised an investigation into the incident – although there was no news of an investigation being implemented. Local authorities claims that the shooting at Hamid was accidental and the purpose was to protect the inner passage where she was killed rather than to target anyone in particular.

Tough responses against activism are common at HTS. Rights groups have criticized the radical group for its record of arbitrary arrests and torture of activists and journalists.

The organization controls many key economic sectors in northwestern Syria, including telecommunications and the fuel industry. It also generates revenue by imposing fees on all goods from surrounding areas held by the Syrian regime.

Fuel smuggling is a common practice in northwestern Syria, where work opportunities are extremely limited. It’s part of a variety of informal occupations that locals have been forced into to get by, such as illegally logging wood to sell as charcoal.

the UN reports that 97% of the population – even those who have a job – live in “extreme poverty”. Most of the population depends on aid delivered by truck from neighboring Turkey, with high rates of malnutrition, especially among children.

Poverty is said to have worsened due to the depreciation of the Turkish lira, which is widely used in the region.

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