Funeral held for Syrian actor apparently killed by rebels
BEIRUT-- A well-known Syrian television actor who was an outspoken supporter of President Bashar Assad was buried Monday in a military-style funeral after being kidnapped and killed, apparently by antigovernment rebels.
Opposition militants said Mohamed Rafeh, 30, was condemned to death because he served as a shabiha, or pro-government gunman and informant. A rebel group that confirmed the slaying posted a statement online alleging that Rafeh reported to the Syrian air force's intelligence branch.
But friends and family say Rafeh was killed because of his unabashed backing of Assad and his public denunciations of the rebels. Outrage over the killing wasn’t limited to Assad supporters.
"I call it idiocy, murder and criminality,” said another Syrian actor, an anti-Assad activist who knew Rafeh and asked not to be named for security reasons. “It has nothing to do with the revolution. It is called revenge. And if we will start the cycle of revenge, we will never end.… It harms the image of this uprising and the people who took to the streets to demand freedom and dignity."
Rafeh’s killing came as a social media campaign called for the punishment of Syrian artists who support Assad, the Associated Press reported.
A Facebook page, “The Black List of Syrian Artists,” carried a picture of Rafeh standing next to a wall with “Assad only” spray-painted on it, AP reported.
In a taped video interview posted by a pro-government website, Rafeh assailed the rebels as “terrorists” and said authorities had every right to hunt them down.In a photo posted on the website, Rafeh is pictured at what appers to be a pro-government rally wrapped in a Syrian flag and with the national banner painted on his cheek.
He was kidnapped Friday in the Damascus neighborhood of Barzeh and executed Sunday, according to the official Syrian news service.
On Monday, Syrian military officers carried his flag-draped coffin from the Tishreen military hospital in Damascus as a military band played solemnly.
Rafeh was of Palestinian origin and the son of actor Ahmad Rafeh, who called Monday for all who have taken up weapons to throw them away, the state news agency reported.
The younger Rafeh was a familiar face on Syrian television programs. He became widely known for his role as Ibrahim, the son of a textile merchant in a popular series, "Bab al-Hara," set in the post-World War I period of French mandate rule in Syria.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell and Rima Marrouch
Photo: A vehicle carries the coffin of Syrian actor Mohamed Rafeh in Damascus. Credit: Youssef Badawi / European Pressphoto Agency