Defenders: A young reporter's mysterious death
DETROIT – Serena Shim was a wife, mother and a journalist. Her life was cut short in what is being called an accident, but her family is questioning exactly what happened.
Shim grew up in Livonia, Mich., and took an interest in journalism.
"She always thought about things before she did them. If everybody was going left, she would go right, and then be right and take everybody with her. She was not scared to talk, to express her opinion," said Serena Shim's sister, Fatmeh Shim. "I just never seen anybody stronger than that."
Serena Shim took an international reporting job with Press TV that landed her in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.
One of her assignments was to investigate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group -- also known as ISIS, a Sunni Islamist rebel group.
"One time I was with her in Turkey on the border and she sent her producer [to ISIS] to ask them if we can give them money and let us tape the camps and let us take the weapons," Fatmeh Shim said. "They came back with a better offering, saying, ‘You can give us more money, you can tape the camps, you can tape the weapons, and we'll take you into Syria and bring you back.' And she didn't accept."
The young journalist complained that editors were trying to shape the news or hide the truth.
"She went in first and she uncovered ISIS in 2012. She left Turkey. In Turkey, everything is filtered. So to work in Turkey and be based in Turkey, you cannot get any real information out because it's filtered," Fatmeh Shim said. "She left, she went back and lived in Turkey for about a year. She worked for a production company that is owned by the Turkish government. She was safe. She wasn't allowed to say anything they didn't want her to say. "
But things changed when Serena Shim went to Kobani, Syria.
"She was her editor. She was doing the editing, she was doing everything. All she had was the cameraman," Fatmeh Shim said.
Serena Shim discovered armed soldiers secretly traveling through the region and reported on it.
"She caught them bringing in ISIS high-ranked members into Syria from Turkey into camps, which are supposed to be Syrian refugee camps," Fatmeh Shima said.
Serena Shim started to get threats about her reporting, and on Oct. 19, 2014, she was killed in a fiery crash.
"My brother-in-law ran over and was knocking on the door and I was sleeping. I opened the door and he said, ‘Fatmeh, they are calling me and saying your sister is dead,'" Fatmeh Shim said. "I said, ‘No. It's wrong. Sassy, she is so strong.'"
Police reports dubbed the crash an accident. But Serena Shim's family wants more investigation. They said they don't think the story adds up.
"I think it was planned and plotted," Fatmeh Shim said. "There's no pictures of Sassy in the car. There is not one scratch on my sister's body. They took them to two different hospitals. Why? Why were there Army men on the ground, why weren't there police?"
Serena Shim's husband, Ibrihim Shim, said she had several fans around the world who want to know the truth.
"People know who she is because she made a name for herself and made history. She made her fans. She made people follow her and follow her news," Ibrihim Shin said, with translation help from Fatmeh Shim.
The family continues to pursue answers. They've set up a Facebook page in remembrance of Serena Shima.
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