On July 9, a number of scandalous photos of Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American journalist working in the Syrian region of Greater Idlib, surfaced on social media.
Abdul Kareem, who appeared entirely naked in the photos, is an infamous propagandist for terrorist groups in Greater Idlib. His own outlet, On the Ground News, has been promoting these groups and their ideology for years.
Это Билял Абдул Карим – русофобская обезьяна-пропагандист из США, работающий в Идлибе с сирийскими террористами. Любит рассуждать о «джихаде» и «скорой победе сирийской революции». А ещё любит фоткаться голышом.
Вот такой «ислам». Сборище извращенцев и маньяков.
Грязь и отбросы pic.twitter.com/Fic3f3WZFA
— Аббас Джума (@IBN_MOHAMMAD) July 9, 2020
Al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), that received much support from Abdu Kareem in its early years, was accused of leaking the scandalous photos.
Several opposition activists said HTS’ security forces leaked the photos to pressure and slander Abdul Kareem, who recently criticized the group for the unlawful arrest of Tauqir Sharif, his close affiliate.
Sharif, who is known as “Abu Hussam al-Birtani,” is a British aid worker based in Greater Idlib. He was arrested by HTS last month. The group accused Sharif of financing projects that promote division in the region. He was likely financing other terrorist groups without HTS knowledge.
Yvonne Ridley Requests to Visit Imprisoned Tauqir Sharif
Former Taliban detainee and prominent British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, requests that HTS allow her to enter Idlib to observe that Tauqir Sharif’s human rights are being observed.
Full video at: https://t.co/P1j2MGs1qT pic.twitter.com/2U2eMDHAvu
— On the Ground News (@OGNreports) July 8, 2020
Abdul Kareem slammed HTS for arresting Sharif, especially that he was stripped from his British citizenship by the United Kingdom’s Home Office in 2017.
In a video message released a few hours after the photos leaks, Abdul Kareem confirmed that his mobile phone was hacked, saying that he has an idea on who may have done it. His remarks were seen as a direct hint at HTS.
Statement Regarding Phone Hacking
Unfortunately my personal family pics were stolen from my phone & shared publicly online to silence me. IA this won’t stop me speaking up for the Syrian people. Thank you to everyone for your support.
Can you report anyone sharing the pics pls. pic.twitter.com/Daaf8gsJPp
— Bilal Abdul Kareem (@BilalKareem) July 10, 2020
HTS denied responsibility for leaking Abdul Kareem’s photos in a statement. The group claimed that the photos were sent to its security forces by an unknown individual prior to their release. The group vowed to uncover that individual and hold him accountable.
Nevertheless, the statement appears to be an attempt by HTS to dodge the problem by pining the leaks on an anonymous side.
This issue didn’t only harm the reputation of Abdul Kareem, but also led to a backlash against HTS. Leaking private photos is strictly forbidden in Islam and is considered to be a major sin. The group has already being accused of abandoning Jihadi ideology.