PEN International is shocked and deeply saddened by the murder of renowned Syrian poet Mohammad Bashir al-Aani and his son Elyas in Deir al-Zour city by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS). According to media reports, Al-Ajani and his son were originally held in an undisclosed locations with 100 others after they attempted to leave an area of the city that was besieged by IS forces. Reports emerged in recent days that both al-Aani and his son were killed after IS accused them of ‘apostasy’.
Mohammad Bashir al-Aani, who was known for his opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, had published three volumes of poetry and was said to be known for his lyrical style. According to family members interviewed by local media, Al-Ajani and Elyas had returned to the area to bury his wife who had died in Damascus.
‘We are shocked and deeply saddened by reports that Mohammad Bashir al-Ajani and his son Elyas were murdered by the militant group Islamic State which had accused them of ‘apostasy’. The deliberate murder of civilians during an armed conflict is a war crime and both those who commit them and those who order them must be brought to justice. We call on all actors involved or with interests in this conflict to use all diplomatic means possible to ensure that no more civilians – including writers – are killed’. – Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
For more information, please contact Sahar Halaimzai, Campaigns and Communications Manager, PEN International at Sahar.firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 20 7405 0338.