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. leeintulsa

    life on a boat is not going to expose a person to the cross-section of society necessary to make such a blanket statement.

    if there are no other americans on board, who else are they going to talk about? and the americans they *do* meet are drinking and doing stupid american things..?

    it's an enclosed society that caters to rich americans, among others.. that's like saying all americans hate mexicans because a handful sitting out on the border do..

    February 24, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. high hopes

    Hate...

    Such a strong word to use! But, who do these haters run to when they need help and who, so graciously provides it?

    Actions speak louder than words!

    February 24, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Peter

    Even with the camera and internet, there are bound to be exaggerations and one sided views passed between them. The truth is in the middle of extremist views from the "activists"/"rebels" as well as Syrian government.

    February 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harry Kuheim

      Please...CNN will give the one-sided exagerated News around here....

      February 24, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Peter

    Oh yeah some of these activists have ulterior motives. We know that there are many Al Q influences among them, the same with Libya's NTC fighters. Tough for Syria now that both Western countries as well as Al Q have one goal right now

    February 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • high hopes

      Al Q is a terrorist organization backed by big bucks, not to be confused with the Muslim faith, in general.

      A little boy, using all his strength, had been making several trips carrying the dying, one by one, across the border to Lebanon for medical treatment; until he stepped on a land mine and lost a leg.

      Which action sounds like the work of al Q? The boy or the one who buried the land mine?

      Death: To Assad!

      .

      February 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry Kuheim

      On 9/11 these same "Activists" were dancing in the streets of Syria and gleefully burning US Flags while of course shouting Allahu Akbar... you think we owe them something now Hillary? They'll turn on us just like the Iraqis and Afghans have.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scottish Mama

    I say we need to boycott Russian and China products till they decide to get with the program. I already boycott China so Russia will not be a reach.

    February 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Harry Kuheim

      Boycott Obama and the Dems first...

      February 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. high hopes

    It would have to be an embargo to be effective. America's shelves are FULL of Chinese products. And, like I said earlier, it would help create jobs!

    China?

    No, thanks!

    February 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. hayatte

    High Hopes I see you are a member of these rebels. What are you doing here go there and stop with your craps. Not only Al Q is present in syria but it's back up by sunnis extremists (american intelligence agencies). Concerning china and russia they do what we do at the UN when we protect our interests they are not better or worst than us. And by the way cnn has not concern for the majority of the population who support assad. They prefer to be part of the propaganda set up by the worst dictatorship regimes known as the gulf states. Remember when reagan armed the so called freedom fighters in afghanistan.....

    February 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • high hopes

      Maybe I'm a rebel, but I don't
      have to be in Syria to fight the
      good fight, Miss Hayate. There's
      plenty can be done, right here!

      Love the name, tho... it suits you.

      February 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GalacticCannibal

    Soldiers FIGHT....but...Politicians TALK

    February 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. beancube

    Why there is no other Syrians are seeking helps from other Russians? No news at all regarding Syrian-Russians underground. News Corporation looks like Zionist CIA more and more now-a-day.

    February 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Harry Kuheim

    Didn't we Elect a Genius named Obama that was going to make all this go away and make the whole World love us again? And Hillary! Please stop with the "Blasting" and "Lashing Out" metaphors...did you learn nothing from the Gifford's shooting?

    February 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. matt UK

    I don't think letting this sort of thing go on is the worlds finest hour. The UN was created to stop stuff like this, not journalists getting killed but the stuff they are trying to report that suddenly nobody seems to care about. Little things (I'm being sarcastic) like a country turning it's armed forces on it's own population indiscriminately. Everyone hates the west and we are loosing our power.. there will be more of this sadly

    February 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Robert E

    To demand a Ceasefire from one side and not the other reveals the true intent of overthrowing yet another regime in the Middle East and Legitimate Patriots don’t fight behind women and children and use their deaths to bring about foreign intervention.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RealityBuff

    Well, here i am on another forum, reading opinions about things none of us can do anything about. It's like we want to be heard, just for the sake of being heard. Yet nobody knows who we are, which gives us the right to say anything we want without consequences. Too bad the Syrian people don't have that same right. But soon .......

    February 26, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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