Steven Sotloff ‘beheading’: Family said murdered journalist ‘tried to find good in a world concealed in darkness’

Sotloff’s family speak for first time, while family spokesperson Barak Barfi challenges Isis leader in Arabic to debate

Steven Sotloff, the 31-year-old American journalist who was beheaded by Isis, has been described by his family as a person who “tried to find good in a world concealed by darkness”.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the video of his death was released, Sotloff’s family paid tribute to the man who they called a “gentle soul”.

At a press conference held in Florida, Barak Barfi, a family spokesperson, read out a statement from the family, which said that Sotloff was “no war junkie”, but acknowledging that “the Arab world pulled him”.

“He did not want to be a modern day Laurence of Arabia. He merely wanted to give voice to those who had none,” his family said.


“From the Libyan doctor in Misrata who struggled to provide psychological services to children ravaged by war, to the Syrian plumber who risked his life by crossing regime lines to buy medicine, their story was Steve’s story.

“He ultimately sacrificed his life to bring their story to the world”.

Tributes have poured in for Soltoff since the news of his death, while the video of his mother, Shirley Sotloff, pleading with militants before he was killed to not hold her son responsible for the actions of the US government, has since been released.

But Sotloff’s family stressed in their statement that the murdered journalist was “no hero,” instead saying that he was a man who sought to help those less privileged than himself, who indulged in South Park, was serious about filing a story at 3am, had a “fondness for junk food that he could not overcome,” but who also found time to Skype his father to talk about his latest golf game.

“Steve had a gentle soul that this world will be without,” his family said, while also paying tribute to murdered fellow journalist James Foley.

“Today we grieve. This week we mourn. But we will emerge from this ordeal. Our village is strong.

“We will not allow our enemies to hold us hostage with the sole weapon they possess – fear,” the Sotloff family said.

After reading the family’s statement, Barfi, the family’s spokesperson and a close friend of Sotloff, sent his own message to the leader of Isis, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Students and supporters holdcandle light vigil at University of Central Florida in honour of Sotloff

Speaking in Arabic, Barfi said: “I have a message to Abu Bakr. You said Ramadan is a month of mercy but where is your mercy? You speak of Islam and the holy Koran but I know the Koranic verses.”

He then quoted a verse from the Koran about God’s disdain for oppressors, and said: “Abu Bakr, I am ready to debate you. I come in peace, I don’t have a sword in my hand, I am ready for your answer.”

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