People Smuggling: Syrian-Turkish “Wall of Death” Funds “Tahrir al-Sham” by Ferhat Ahmed
Organisation: ARIJ Network, Daraj Media, Focus Aleppo, Orient Net, SHAAM Network, Al-Gherbal Magazine, Levant News
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 8 Oct 2020
Credit: Ferhat Ahmed
This investigation monitors the amount of money that Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) makes by smuggling people from the Syrian governate of Idlib into Turkey for huge sums of money, and addresses the number of deaths at the hands of the Turkish forces and the violations that women and children are subjected to. The story showed how people smuggling is a source of funding for the militant group which doesn’t care civilians’ lives as it sends them to their death. Women were also forced to wear the Islamic dress and couldn’t travel without a male companion.
After the investigation was published, several decisions were issued to prevent human smuggling operations. One of them was issued by the Jarabulus Local Council in the countryside of Aleppo in Northern Syria. Additionally, the Turkish authorities arrested several smuggling networks with Syrian and Turkish members. Lastly, the investigation uncovered how much money Tahrir al-Sham makes to finance its terrorist operations in Idlib, the conditions of children and women who cross the border, and the civilians who lose their lives, and this made people aware of the severity of the situation.
Secret videos were taken inside one of the offices of the militant group, and interviews were conducted with the smugglers. The smuggling route was identified using Google Maps, and infographics were designed for the statistics obtained. Through cooperation with the smugglers, I managed to obtain financial receipts showing the amount of money that Tahrir al-Sham was making. Lastly, I got a response from one of the leaders in the organization justifying their acts which was a direct confession from them.
What was the hardest part of this project?
It was difficult to find proof of how much profit the militant group was making, but I managed to know through secret videotaping. I resorted to secret videotaping because the militant group concealed their financial details.
What can others learn from this project?
Patience and perseverance because this investigation took several months until I was able to prove the hypothesis.