Syrian activist, daughter with Triangle ties killed in Turkey

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Halla Barakat was a cousin of Deah Barakat, one of three Muslim students murdered in Chapel Hill in 2015. (WTVD)

A Syrian activist and her U.S-born journalist daughter have been killed in their home in Istanbul, relatives and Turkish media said Friday - the latest victims of attacks targeting Syrian activists in Turkey.

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The bodies of 60-year-old Orouba Barakat, from Idlib in northern Syria, and her only daughter, 23-year-old Halla Barakat, were discovered late Thursday, state-run Anadolu Agency reported after friends contacted police when the journalist didn't show up for work.

Anadolu said the bodies were stabbed. Homicide officers are investigating the deaths. The Hurriyet newspaper said police believe the women were killed two or three days ago.

There have been four previous killings of Syrian journalists in Turkey, which the Islamic State group has claimed. A fifth journalist survived two attacks.

"It's not the first time you hear about a Syrian killed for the cause but it hit so close to home this time," said Halla's cousin Farris Barakat "Their lives' work was trying to stand up for the Syrian people against the brutal regime. I would wish that the world would just wake up from its senses and notice that too many lives are being lost for any of this too many good lives too."

The two women were related to the Barakat family from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, whose three members were also killed in 2015 by their neighbor, said Orouba Barakat's sister, Shaza Barakat, who came from Syria to attend the funeral.



Shaza Barakat said Halla was born in North Carolina and was related to Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha from Chapel Hill who were killed in 2015 by their neighbor who said he had "disdain for religion."

Shaza said her sister and her family had been critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and suggested that the government may be behind the killings.

Orouba had left Syria in the 1980s, worked as a journalist in Arab newspapers, covering economic and political affairs. She later traveled to America where she gave birth to her daughter. She is separated from her U.S.-Syrian husband, a physician in the United States, Shaza Barakat said.

Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Barakat, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were all killed by a neighbor in 2015.



After this tragic loss, the family is looking to religion for answers.

"Some are obviously hurt and exhausted, drained ... but there still remains a glimmer of hope that this is God's plan for them," Farris said. "You think of the bright lives they lived and with a world of so much darkness, you just feel like I don't know if we can afford losing people like that."

According to Syrian opposition activists, Orouba was a member of the Syrian National Council. She had backed the uprising against Assad and had supported the opposition, even as she was critical of some opposition groups.

Her daughter was a journalist working for the opposition's Orient news. Earlier this year, she took part in a talk titled "Russia destroyed Syria."

The media advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, has urged Turkey's government to protect Syrian journalists in exile in the country.

"Halla is like this mix of determination and passion but innocence and young age always with a smile and care for others," Farris said while described Halla. "(She was) somebody who loved other people and left a life of comfort here to go and help people who she thought needed the help. People who sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice for others and betterment of this world."

The Barakat family has created a fund through the Karam Foundation, to carry on the women's legacy.

The goal is to create a women's entrepreneurship program in Syria so women can sell hand-made clothing and other items to nearby homes and businesses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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