Inside Syria: Activists risk lives to show world the death they see
Members of the Syrian opposition say one of their greatest weapons is using technology to show the world what is happening.
February 23rd, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Inside Syria: Activists risk lives to show world the death they see

Editor's note: Syrian forces are intensifying their bombardment of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, a stronghold of the opposition. For those trapped in the area, there is the ever-present danger that the next shell will hit wherever they are trying to find shelter, or a sniper's bullet will kill them.

CNN's Arwa Damon, who was in Homs last week, saw the risks that opposition activists were taking minute-by-minute, when she went to their communications center. CNN's Ivan Watson also was able to get an inside look at a makeshift, rebel-run media operation helping to get the news and pictures out of Syria. Below are edited accounts of what they've seen and been told about how Syrians are trying to get their message out:

The weapons are different here. They come in the form of protest banners, videos and anti-government demonstrations. And they are images that are broadcast and streamed live online to the outside world.

Young men are among the activists that have kept the Syrian uprising alive by using technology in the face of a government crackdown that's left thousands dead.

The Syrian regime says they are facing a barrage of attacks from armed terrorists. They are fighting back, but these revolutionaries insist they don't need guns.

"I don't need Kalashnikov. I need just this [holds up camera] and laptop and media," Shaheb Sumac tells Watson.

They arm themselves with these pieces of technology and a whole lot of bravery. They show CNN footage they've shot secretly.

And then they distribute them across Syria and throughout the world. This amateur footage has served as a lifeline into life in Syria as it has become an important source of information for news organizations, including CNN, which are barred from freely working inside the country.

At first glance, the media operation appears like a grungy Middle Eastern university dorm room. But in their eyes, these men are media warriors.

"We are fighting a war against the regime's media channels," Alaa Edien Hamdoun, the group's leader, tells Watson. Even though we're working for free with few resources ... we are winning against them ... because we are servants of our revolution who are demanding freedom."

In a battered home in the Baba Amr, a similar operation is under way. The building was once an ordinary family home .

Now there are just bits and pieces of lives that have been left behind - including a children's toy.

The place has become a government opposition media hub, buzzing with activity. Some of the activists don't want their identities revealed.  They are all wanted men, most in their twenties.

Many of those videos out of Homs that you see on YouTube are uploaded from here.

In the face of great danger, teams go out to shoot videos. Others post images to Facebook and other social media sites.

One of the biggest accomplishments for the media team here was getting up a live stream so they could show the world exactly what was happening in real-time, and they believe this angered the Syrian government.

They say one camera they had set up outside was hit by a sniper's bullet. Even though the government managed to bring down this live feed, they had other cameras set up and managed to get the images and the message out.

They spread words of encouragement to keep them motivated, but by nighttime those messages are replaced with the names of the dead.

After we reported some of this detail we learned that one of the opposition cameramen in Homs, Rami Ahman Alsayeed, was killed on Tuesday.

Hours earlier he had set up a camera on a roof to show the continued shelling of Baba Amr. It was a dangerous task - one that these people do each day.

Shortly before he was killed he wrote a message to his friends: "I expect this will be my last message and no one will forgive you who talked but didn't act."

His death, and the deaths of both Syrian activists and western journalists trying to share what they are seeing, highlights the danger that comes with trying to report out of Syria. For many of those standing up to the attacks, it is a daily hope that they survive, and that's something that CNN photographer Joe Duran couldn't help but think about as Watson and the rest of the team were finally, and safely, out of Syria.

"It's been not just scary but emotional," he said. "Some of the people we left behind, I just hate to think what might happen to them. We’re out, but I just hope they stay safe."

soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. Joe

    This is no less a slaughter than that which happened in Libya. World powers, UN , free democratic communities, this is inhumaine. When will humanity react and do something, especially those empowered to do so?

    February 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • PEDO-BEAR

      Humanity is doing something about it. Sadly, all they see fit to do is reblog about the travesty from their rockers and make empty threats of slapping the perpetrators on the wrist and exclaim, "BAD!" Time to wake up and smell the napalm, nuke the ba$t@rds!

      February 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • dhondi

      Joe, get a gun and head on over.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. high hopes

    I viewed the sad, heart wrenching video of Rami's death in a clinic. His brother, a doctor, tried to revive him; while a priest stood in shock. Rami was a hero and his brother wanted to make sure we came to know him. It's so sad to read hateful posts through my tears and as the whole world just stands by and watches the worst kind of punishment being unleached against people who seek freedom from the grips of a murderous dictator.

    Rami was right, shame on those who fail to act. This is not like Iran. No one was begging for help... hitting the pavement with signs and slogans seeking a democracy, nor should it become an Iraq or Afghanistan infiltered by sectarian ideals and extremists. The only terrorism being committed in Syria is that being carried out by Assad, his regime and their allies... Iran, Russia and China.

    I pray that the 'Friends of Syria' are successful in their resolutions as these crimes against humanity have to cease!

    ~Bless

    February 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. high hopes

    I viewed the sad, heart wrenching video of Rami's death in a clinic. His brother, a doctor, tried to revive him; while a priest stood in shock. Rami was a hero and his brother wanted to make sure we came to know him. It's so sad to read hateful posts through my tears and as the whole world just stands by and watches the worst kind of punishment being unleached against people who seek freedom from the grips of a murderous dictator.

    Rami was right, shame on those who fail to act. This is not like Iran. No one was begging for help... hitting the pavement with signs and slogans seeking a democracy, nor should it become an Iraq or Afghanistan infiltered by sectarian ideals and extremists. The only terrorism being committed in Syria is that being carried out by Assad, his regime and their allies... Iran, Russia and China.

    I pray that the 'Friends of Syria' are successful in their resolutions as these crimes against humanity have to cease!

    February 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nick

    This is a joke. Our international media outlets are a joke. Many of these "activists" are just as violent as those that they claim are commiting atrocities. I've been there, I've seen hundreds of "peaceful protesters" mob, beat, stab, shoot and dismember Syrian soldiers; on several occasions. It's absolute insanity, and you're all right, it's wholesale murder; but it's not just this tyranical empire doing the killing, it's both sides. Now having seen this happen in several countries over the past year, I can only hope that if the UN intervenes at all, it doesn't put any of those terrorist opposition protesters in power. What a disgusting distortion of unfolding events – open your eyes – and believe nothing you read in the media in relation to uprisings in Muslim countries, it's almost all lies – just ask the Al Qaeda-backed "opposition" in Lybia, they'll tell you.

    Hah, "Slaughter in Syria," could an article start any more bias?

    To caveat this post; I'm not a journalist by trade so I'm not inherently a liar.

    February 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • high hopes

      You're a liar perpetuating lies among your brothers. You were never in Syria and your words mean nothing compared to the ones who are. The armed forces of Assad gathered 13 men and boys, lined them up and executed them one by one. Why? Because they shared the same name as a man in Turkey who was supporting the activists. Does that sound like the action of the oppressed or the oppressor?

      The media has film, reels and reels, of film of the peaceful demonstrators; young and old. And we are to ignore them for a blogger who hasn't even the guts to blog under his own name?

      Sorry, don't believe you... try again!
      :)

      February 23, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. aliaspalos

    Send in the cavalry! As soon as possible , like last month!

    February 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dragon

    Journalism has stooped to the lowest levels. This kind of reporting can be seen as war mongering and a war crime (people are actually now tried for inflammatory language as a war crime in the Balkans). Regardless what CNN does, the military budget will have to go down and the number of wars US is engaged in will have to go down (Eisenhower's words about the military complex and destiny of Soviet Union come to mind). Gen. Ted Turner will have to find a new job flipping burgers, or doing something else useful.

    February 23, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Maria

    Put bombs all over the place kill everyone ,don't waste our soldiers lives for God's sake, let them kill each other .We not need thousands of American soldiers get killed for nothing...it is their WAR not ours!

    February 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • dhondi

      No, don't even waste a bomb.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      You call this a WAR?

      Excuse me, it's a GENECIDE!

      Soldiers are shot in the head if they don't open fire on innocent people in the streets. And... what will become of them when their jobs are done?

      Why would Iran send ships with thousands of soldiers and return with thousands of Syrians?

      The U.N. is asking for an accounting of the dead AND the missing.

      Why?

      February 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. leeintulsa

    i think the french are coming.. just got some tactical issues to work out..

    where ya gonna land/refuel, gotta get all your pieces into place, what have you.. it's not something to 'jump' into, killin people..

    February 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • high hopes

      Turkey and Israel... maybe, even, in Iraq.

      Say bye-bye, Assad! :D

      February 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. catpaw

    What happened to the Arab League? If anyone is in a position to intervene in this insanity it is Syria's neighbors. Oh, that's right...they can't. Islam is a peaceful religion.

    February 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. high hopes

    ... and what if they come to YOUR door?

    Who will come to protect you?

    You say you have guns... but what good is a gun against a tank?

    February 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. leeintulsa

    my door? who?

    February 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Richie

    HU!!

    It's that crazy middle east oil thing again that my mule status
    collapsing a democracy to protect a child m urdering dictator somehow
    added to for no reason this time around!!

    In 73 and 78 it was a little more than one of today's political bullet
    point like how to position a TEWOW attack on top of our North Korean
    dictatorship -that is impossible to prevent but virtually non existent-
    that my child m urdering poet is turning into a rock solid dictatorship
    -with more power than all dictators on the face of the earth put
    together – so no two people can lawfully talk about it so we can focus
    in on that crazy middle east oil thing and how to position and align
    that with social justice in the form of pain at the pump for everyone to
    protect one man's character!!

    It's a little unfair Jimmy that your geopolitical was working against
    the raw realities of these geo-political and economic factors while
    holding all our value here at home while our liberal itch jettisons
    them all and collapses a way of life and democracy here at home only to
    directly cause these geo-political factors to go against us as well
    exclusively to save this war criminal and perverts reputation...

    Maybe my contribution to this won't be so bad and maybe some other
    factors will be inserted so it doesn't exclusively look like it is the
    direct fault of my media and political t rash dancing on top of other
    innocent life along Obama's negative reality..

    I am a social justice supporting Senator in the face of those big bad Republicans!!!

    Actually it won't be nearly as bad as 73 or 78 but given the fact we are the direct cause, compounded by the fact it was all a plain of alternate reality, speaks volumes about us...

    Hu!!!

    Agent #2 has been monitoring all of this:)

    Actually it is baked into all of us HU because some of the orders came directly from the man in charge and worked flawlessly because during periods of enormous stress there are little tears in the reality in front of you that are impossible to articulate but show extraordinary design behind every decision we all make and that is why I do not care how my thread "appears" when it leaves life's stage...because a got a chance for one turn at his record and in a matter of minutes I put the most powerful man in the world inside of my imagination making one of history's most shameful pucks one of the stupidest as well..and what does he do but decide to go full stream against the most awesome power that put him in his place so his insecure and pathetic as can come out looking start on top of as as many of his citizens as necessary...like he is some kind of weirdo...not wise HU even for a gambling man...

    He sees you Hu...

    you tube com/watch?v=Cklb7L0OA1c

    February 23, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • toadears

      You really need to s h u t up

      February 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      Jimmy Carter supported the Shah in Iran, another tyrrant who ruled his citizens with an iron fist, torture and imprisonment... we called it 'political persecution'; and look where it got us!

      February 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      Thanks, Richie!

      I got it... October 28, 2011 @ 1:21pm

      ~Bless

      February 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      Richie:

      The Angels can, certainly, bless themselves... rejoice in their work and proclaim Him righteous... and they do!

      What grand gifts they bring to us and how soon we forget.

      .

      Glory be to Him!

      February 24, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. toadears

    pedo bear? What kind of name is that?

    February 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Get the BadGuy

    Obama will fix everything. He started this mess so don't worry. Remember

    February 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. high hopes

    I'm not worried. I'm impatient, remember?
    :)

    February 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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