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Syrian filmmaker stabbed in Istanbul 'assassination attempt'

Syrian director Muhammad Bayazid is working on a film about Syria's notorious Tadmor prison
Muhammad Bayazid, pictured here with his wife and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, remains in intensive care after being stabbed in the chest on Tuesday evening (screengrab)

A Syrian filmmaker was stabbed in the chest in Istanbul on Tuesday evening, in what activists described as an assassination attempt.

Muhammad Bayazid was attacked while meeting potential investors for his new film project, The Tunnel, which focuses on Tadmor prison in Syria’s Homs province.

The prison has long been one of the most notorious in Syria, well before the civil war broke out in 2011.

Bayazid was taken to the intensive care unit, according to his friends, but he is now in a stable condition.

His wife Samah Safi Bayazid, also a filmmaker, confirmed the news on Facebook, labelling the attack an "assassination attempt".

“We love you Muhammad. You're a real-life hero. No matter how deep, that wound doesn't know what it's up against,” wrote a friend of his, Mohammad Ghanem, on Facebook, adding that he believes Syrian government agents were behind the attack.

“Muhammad was lured into an elaborate trap by ‘benefactors’ who expressed keen interest in discussing ‘funding' for his new film on Tadmor prison. This makes the Assad regime a prime suspect.”

Bayazid’s upcoming film tells the story of a Syrian-American man unjustly imprisoned in Tadmor prison, where he is tortured.

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In 1996, Human Rights Watch called Tadmor prison “a facility infamous throughout Syria for the extremely brutal abuses that have occurred there since 1980,” including massacres and torture.

Closed in 2001, it was re-opened a decade later to hold anti-government protesters, and then captured by the Islamic State group in 2015.

Syrian activists say they are feeling increasingly unsafe in Turkey, and just last month a young journalist and her activist mother were found dead in their apartment.

Orouba Barakat, an opponent of the ruling Baath party since the 1980s, and her only child, journalist Halla Barakat, were found dead with stab wounds to their necks in late September. A relative has since confessed to their murders.

Several Syrian journalists have also been shot dead or beheaded in Gaziantep, in attacks claimed by IS.

Samah Safi Bayazid's work also focuses on humanitarian and political issues, and she has in the past directed films which touch upon the Syrian refugee crisis

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