A graduate film student at Syracuse University was killed in Syria while filming a documentary about the ongoing violence ravaging his homeland, The Associated Press reports.
Bassel Shahade, 28, a well-known Syrian activist, died Monday in the city of Homs, Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor told The AP. She did not have details of his death.
"This is a terrible tragedy for Bassel’s family and friends in Syria and for all his fellow students, faculty and friends here in Syracuse who knew him," she wrote in a message to students. “His death is also a tragedy for the Syrian people, who have suffered many months of tragic violence as they seek greater freedom for their nation."
Amer Mater, a friend of Shahade, told The AP that the student filmmaker was in Houla filming the aftermath of the massacre that claimed the lives of 108 people, including 32 children, last week.
The United Nations estimates that around 9,000 people, mostly civilians, have been slaughtered since the uprisings against President Bashar Assad began in Syria about 14 months ago.
In addition to filming his own documentary, Shahade was also training other videographers to document the violence in Syria, Mater said.
Friends and supporters of Shahade took to Facebook to mourn Shahade and a group has already been created in his name titled, "Bassel Shahade Singing For Freedom." The page had 1,221 likes as of 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
"Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives and this young man sought to bring this to the attention of the world. Are you listening World? We failed to hear him shout in life, perhaps we can hear his whisper in death. We must help the people of Syria," Brad O'Neill posted on the Facebook page.
Deborah Jordan posted, "Bassel Shahade was an incredibly brave filmmaker. My heart goes out to his family and friends, and to the besieged Syrian people he was helping when he was killed."
Prior to his death, Shahade appeared via a live audio feed on the show Democracy Now! in December. With guards possibly right outside the door, he spoke in a quiet voice while hiding in an apartment and explained to the hosts that the situation in Syria is deadly. Shahade's segment starts at around 14:50:
"Thousands of detainees are still in the prisons," Shahade said. "Among them are tens of my friends. They are not terrorists. They are filmmakers, journalists, doctors, lawyers. They are very high intellectual people and activists."
Shahade said the country needed protection in the form of observers and journalists to document the atrocities being carried out by Assad's security forces.
"This is the protection we need, " he said.