Skip to main content

British aid worker Tauqir Sharif rearrested by HTS in Syria's Idlib

Londoner seized after he was confronted by one of his interrogators, his wife says
Sharif has been in Syria since 2013 (Supplied)

A British aid worker who was released on bail by the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militant group in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province has been re-arrested. 

Tauqir Sharif, who is originally from London, was detained by HTS forces on 22 June near Atmeh, where he has been based since 2013. 

Speaking on a Facebook video, Sharif's wife Racquell Hayden-Best said her husband was re-arrested after he was confronted by one of his interrogators when he attended a court to register his solicitor's details. 

"One of the interrogators who mistreated him in prison came onto him and recognised him, and Tauqir asked him if it was right what you did to me," Hayden-Best said. 

"The guy [interrogator] said that it wasn't wrong and it turned into a fight. The guy went to hit Tauqir. Tauqir didn't hit him and after he came outside the guy ran after him shouting and he told me to go."

Sharif's family in the UK have also confirmed to Middle East Eye that he has been rearrested. 

It remains unclear why Sharif was rearrested and what charges he faces. He was released on 15 July "on bail".

In a statement after his first arrest, HTS said he was being investigated over alleged "mismanagement of humanitarian funds and its use towards projects that sow sedition and division". His family have disputed those allegations.

Following a series of inter-rebel battles in 2018, hardline HTS seized control of Idlib, running it through its political arm, the National Salvation Government.

A video posted on social media by Sharif's aid organisation, Live Updates from Syria, showed him being greeted after his initial release by his children and others supported by the organisation's projects.

Addressing the crowd, Sharif said: "Even in prison I heard that the women made so much noise for me."

His arrest prompted protests by children and women supported by Live Updates from Syria's projects in Atmeh's displacement camp, as well as a #FreeTox social media campaign, referring to Sharif by the nickname by which he is widely known.

Over the course of Syria’s war, Sharif has become one of the most high-profile foreign nationals living in Idlib, via broadcasts on his own social media channels and through coverage of his work by media outlets, including the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, CNN and MEE.

He says Live Updates from Syria employs around 200 people and runs 41 aid projects in Idlib, the last area of Syria still under the control of rebel forces.

Last year Sharif revealed that he was among a number of UK nationals in Syria to have been stripped of their citizenship by the British government.