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Hundreds attend Istanbul funeral of slain Syrian activist and daughter

The killings have rocked the Syrian-exile community in Turkey and triggered opposition demands for accountability
Orouba Barakat and daughter Halla Barakat, who were found murdered on Friday (screengrab from twitter)

Hundreds of people have attended the funeral of a prominent Syrian opposition activist and her daughter who were found stabbed to death at home in Istanbul, as the US government moved to condemn the atrocity.

Orouba Barakat, 60, and her only daughter, journalist Halla Barakat, were found by police with stab wounds to their necks at their Istanbul apartment on Friday after friends were unable to reach them by telephone.

Orouba had been a vocal opponent of the Syria's ruling Baath party since the 1980s and was a member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). Halla, 22, who is a US-Syrian dual national, served as a journalist for Dubai-based Orient News and was said by friends to be popular within anti-government circles.

Eyewitnesses told MEE that about 800 people attended the funeral on Saturday afternoon at Istanbul's Fatih mosque, where prayers were said behind the two caskets, which were draped in the colours of the Syrian flag.

A video published on Facebook then shows men hoisting the caskets from a truck and onto their shoulders before carrying it through a packed cemetery for burial amid religious chanting.

The US State Department said it was "deeply saddened" by the deaths and vowed to keep track of the investigation.

"The United States condemns the perpetrators of these murders and we will closely follow the investigation," said US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

The United States condemns the perpetrators of these murders and we will closely follow the investigation

- Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson

Orouba was the aunt of Deah Barakat, who was killed in 2015 along with his wife and her younger sister by a neighbour in North Carolina in what became known as the Chapel Hill shooting.

Deah's sister, Suzanne Barakat, paid tribute to the women on social media and set up a family legacy campaign in their name.

"I'll always remember Halla, whose name means beauty, as the little girl with golden curls and bright green eyes. She grew to become a dynamic, educated, kind, fun-loving, social justice-oriented individual, just like her mom," she wrote in a Facebook post.

Translation: A sinful crime that claimed the lives of my colleague Orouba Barakat and her daughter Halla in Istanbul. May they have mercy. Deepest condolences to their family members. 

The killings have rocked the Syrian exile community in Turkey and triggered demands for accountability. Some opposition figures have placed blame for the killings at the feet of the Assad government.

'[Orouba] Barakat's contributions will have a lasting impact long after her departure'

- Syrian National Coalition

"The hand of terrorism and tyranny is the prime suspect in this heinous crime. The Coalition is absolutely confident that investigations being conducted by the Turkish authorities will reveal the details of the crime," the Syrian National Coalition said in a statement.

"[Orouba] Barakat's contributions will have a lasting impact long after her departure."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (PJ) said: "Turkey must ensure the protection of Syrian journalists who have fled to the country seeking safety.

"We call on Turkish authorities to find those responsible for the murders of Halla Barakat and Orouba Barakat, and bring them to justice," CPJ Europe and Central Asia programme coordinator Nina Ognianova said.