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. amarjeet

    Assad does not have loyaltyto Syria after seeing in Libya just short time back.Country in the hands of rebels will give him what was given to Gadhafi as in crowd & unorganized mob anything may happen.No power is greater than people of the country. He opthalmologist & must have good sight.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. emenot

    The world don't appreciate our generous nature and call us a colonial imperialist nation, why should we continue to burden ourselves with their unapreciative attitudes? The more good we try to do, the more we get blame for everything!

    February 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Working man

      Don't kid yourself. Wake up from your la la land view of the US. The US gets involved only when it will benefit economically or strategically. The US doesn't do anything because its the right thing to do. Anyone who thinks that is a fool. A fool because the truth is staring them right in the face but their blind to it. It props up dictators countless of times because they agreed to work together for the benefit of the US's interests. In return the dictator gets to stay in power and live a lavish lifestyle while stealing from his countrymen. It disgusts me how you idiots live in this imaginary world of yours feeding off of eachother's "facts" that are nothing but ignorant and misguided at best and outright lies at worst.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jeffrey Everson

    Why western countries invaded Libya and why they will probably not invade Syria: Syria’s oil reserves are only 5 percent of Libya’s. Thus, there is only a 5 percent chance that Europeans and/or the United States will do anything of substance to prevent the slaughter of innocent children, women and non combatant men.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob Olson

      It's not oil. Syria's #1 ally is Iran and then Russia. Try and imagine the chaos of a NATO force, being led by the US (as usual) going into Syria and unleashing the Iranian army to counter. Libya had no friends that wanted to aid Gaddafi. Assad on the other hand is needed to launch strikes against Iran's favorite target – Israel, which draws in the US. In either scenario the US is pitted against Iran, who flinched in 1981 and gave into US pressure.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. squid

    Do any of the Syria rebels have jobs ? Are we going to arm this cute people like we did in Libya? Not a good thing in my view.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • high hopes

      Typical American. They have jobs but the most active opposition are students. Take a gander at Miss Colvin's photo at one of the rallies. The protestors are ordinary people, just like you and me. They're probably not working presently because of snipers, tanks and military checkpoints.

      Just sayin'

      February 23, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. emenot

    We try to help Lybia, Afghanistan, Iraq, S Korea, Japan, Phillipines, Vietnam, China(Most Favorite Trading Nations), Mexico, and yes even Canada... Where did it got us?

    February 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • humanone

      Excuse me? You've helped yourself to the natural resources of Canada – especially big American oil companies. When TF did America help Canada? Canadians got the Americans out of Iran in 1979. Canadians entered both WWI and WWII before Americans did. We've fought alongside America and our allies throughout history. We even kicked your asses out of country during the War of 1812 which was started by you (we even burnt your White House).
      Take a history lesson. Most American know squat about Canada other than they think we live in igloos and don't have running water. LMFAO

      February 24, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. William D. Opp

    Let Freedom ring...... Fight to win ... Not for benefit of the American Politicians who never have defended this country or the freedom we share...

    February 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • high hopes

      Right On!

      February 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      If it were up to me I would place an American embargo on China and Russia.

      Just as in Syria, they support corrupt, oppressive regimes all over the world which results in civil unrest, human slavery and genecide.

      How many times do we have to spend trillions of dollars putting out their fires, but more importantly, how much blood must be shed before we do something?

      Let's ring that bell of freedom for all!

      Boycott
      CHINA AND RUSSIA

      February 24, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • humanone

      @ High Hopes: :)))))
      China owns America.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      Owns us????
      :D

      All the more reason!

      February 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ed

    Can anyone tell me why no one is calling this a civil war? Please don't get me wrong, I don't really give a rat's behind who is in power in Syria, but if this is a civil war then why in the world would we want to get involved in the internal affairs of another country? We bombed the poo out of one middle eastern country, are still involved in one semi-active war, one semi-inactive war, we have ground troops in several central African nations, ground troops and air support in the Korean peninsula and Europe. Is it any wonder why we are mostly hated, not simply disliked, but hated by more people than live in North America. If anyone really believes that the Syrians will love us to bomb them in order to free them, please seek psychiatric help soon. Why do we have our forces scattered all over the world, projection of force? That theory may also be described as being bleed white while slowly being picked off in piecemeal fashion. If Europe and the Arab world wants to change the government in Syria, then go for it, just leave us out of this next clusterstuck.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RON PAULSW

    Alien

    February 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. dave

    i think the reason no western country wants to help is they are getting bored with all the people who live in the middle east. no matter who winns these fights people understand that they will still teach and hate the people in the western world. syrian people danced in the streets along with other people in the middle east with joy on 9 11 when the towers went down. they seem to enjoy burning the american flag while yelling death to america. now they have the gull to ask why the world doesn't care enough to help! i hope that people killing each other in the middle east catches on as a past time for there violent beliefs.

    February 24, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Alan

    Remmeber 9-11 SYRIANS DANCED IN THE STREETS CHANTING DEATH TO AMERICA.
    I for one agree this is an Arab problem to be solved by Arabs...not our fight. Go back even
    further to 1979 Iranian Hostage crisis...Syrians again danced in the streets burning american flags and chanting death to America in support of their Irnaian allies who sacked our embassy in Tehran and took american soldiers and embassy employees hostage and held them for almost a year. Sorry but like any nascent democracy...a country must pay the price of blood to be re-born.. We had our own american revolution and they must now have theirs. We fought against a King they must fight against a dictator...good luck.

    February 24, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ross Barkley

      #1: the American revolution was massively supported by France. 2: The odds are "good" that (when) the rebels win, Syria will wobble into such chaos that minority communities will be decimated either by murder or flight. As much as I wish to see freedom and justice reign in Syria I also must look at the sorry record of most of the other "Arab spring" countries that experienced social unrest and hope against hope that one of the most ancient of Christian communites won't be scattered to the four winds as a result of this. Hearing "Allah 'uAkbar" shouted in infinitum in the opposition videos from Syria is definitely not reassuring. I say "most" because of one glaring inconsistentcy: Israel was the scene of mass marches, demonstrations, etc. last summer. The police did not riot, the army was not called out. The clan based society is generations away from one mature enough for democratic systems. Correct me if I'm wrong.

      February 24, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • humanone

      It's mainly a Muslim problem. Shia and Sunnis have a blood lust for one another. I would hate to be a Christian Arab in any of these mainly Muslim countries.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. Syrian

    These activist are not risking their lives for nothing, they are getting paid big bucks to do what they do. Shame on on them and shame on CNN for risking their crew for useless content.

    February 24, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • high hopes

      Yeah, right...

      They're rolling in dough!

      February 24, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • humanone

      Yeah... they really look like they're living the high life... getting paid to watch their families get slaughtered. I'd do that too if I could make some money. LMFAO.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      Humanone:

      Now you got your gears going:

      Embargo slows their progress
      AND
      Creates jobs!

      February 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alex

    Why is it we do not hear anything from Bahrain? Per capita there is more killing there than in Syria? Or why are we not hearing from the killings that is going on in Eastern Part of Saudi Arabia? There were 19 Saudis in the terrorist attack of 9/11. Saudi rich are behind the support of Taliban that are killing American/Nato in Afghanistan. Is Saudi a democratic place, Kuwait? Yemen? Bahrain? UAE? were are the CNN, Al Jazera reporter to report facts in these countries. There is a serious credibility crisis with regards to the reporting from Middle East. Come on CNN, Aljazera, BBC etc. No one is watching you anymore. Your time has passed. Unless you become impartial media operation, you will need a QE to survive.

    February 24, 2012 at 1:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Revengebunny

    The propaganda machine seems to be really rolling along today. I wonder if they will melt down the machines anytime soon or just start dropping bombs indescriminantly?

    February 24, 2012 at 3:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Joanne

    My 30 year old daughter is a crew member on one of the world's largest luxury yachts. Formerly owned by Roman Abromovich of Russia, it is now owned by the Prince of Dubai. She is in the Persian Gulf and travels the entire world. She has been doing this for 8 years now and has earned a Captains license. She is also a pilot. She is the only American on the entire crew. She tells me all the time that everybody hates America. Even Europeans. She rarely mentions that she is American to anyone because she is fed up with the diatribes and insults. This is because of our policies of intervening everywhere. When we meddle in everybody else's country, the result is that they universally despise us. Why don't we just concentrate on defending our own borders and leave the rest of the world to the citizens of the world. The more we try to "fix" it, the more we break it and the more they hate us. Our interventions have only increased the risk of a terror attack against us. What are we trying to accomplish? What is our goal when we try to force ourselves and our "American values" on the World?

    February 24, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • banasy©

      Wow.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  15. leeintulsa

    the fight's not over anywhere yet..

    and if the western world comes to the aid of middle-eastern civilians in *every* one of these little revolutions where they ask for it, the future world-view of everyone involved could change dramaticly.

    we could be witnessing the dawn of a new age.. or not.. a glass half-full thing. there's enough negative in the world. i'll choose positive..

    when obama came to office, it dawned on me that he could, accidently, bring peace to the middle east. of course, that's like saying reagan brought down the wall.. but watch..

    February 24, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
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