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. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Blah blah, blah

    February 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I know,right? SSDD.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Don't buy gas on Fridays

    February 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You d to copyright that saying, Jeff!

      February 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bobcat (in a dunce)

    Nuke Islam!

    February 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. / Through a Scanner, Darkly

    @ sheep, Little Bo Peep has been looking for you...

    February 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    This story reminds me of the people who took their clothes off before jumping from the Trade Towers on 9/11. They were trying to tell the world that there was something making them hurt, but it went away when they took their wet clothes off. The major media never focused on these brave souls who took the time to try and tell us before they jumped to their deaths. Dr. Judy Wood noticed. Where did the towers go?

    February 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Philip

    ...with their wet clothes on, they would look up and wave at whoever were watching. Then walk accross an seemingly imaginary line and start acting as if they were being cooked alive. Then they took their clothes off, walked accross the line again, and acted as if nothing was burning them any more. They did this sevseral times before finally jumping. Dr. Judy Wood Phd figured out what they were trying to say, published what she found, and was fired from her university position just like Connie Chung was fired for trying to tell us what really happened.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Abraham

    Once we lose the Israel excuse for being involved in middle eastern affairs, only private US concerns will be concerned with how oil flows over there. The US gov. will wash their hands of "god's chosen nation Israel" just as the roman ruler of Israel Pontius Pilate washed his hands of Jesus' blood, and Roman troops were later sent to trounce Israel. Once that war-mongering Israel is exposed for what she really is, there will be no more official excuses to protect her.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jay

    how is the world just standing on the sidelines and not doing anything where has humanity gone that people can just watch this and not feel anything for these poor people?why is our government not putting a stop to this no matter the consequences?

    February 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dlic16`

    20 years ago you wanted war with western alies, now you want their protection. Be careful who you share your bed with. We cannot save everyone from their skelton's. Money makes the world go round, what do you have to offer? Oh yeah, hate, the recent past is not forgotten.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steve

    Reporters are proud of themselves for showing the human suffering in Syria. While the MNEs and super-rich selfishly support the Syrian puppet government. Ignorant news anchors are surprised (or feign surprise) at the atrocities that religious merchants of death will perpetrate for money or for their religious beliefs.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SARAH

    Once the anti-semetic ruling class of the USA decide that the monster is within themselves, they will stop persecuting the everday Israelite on stop the propaganda machine that fuels their hatred.......and their coffers. Anti-Israelirhetorical reporting at a all time high. Do not be fooled. USA hates you as much as anyone and everyone.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. high hopes

    Don't forget who put them there.

    By the way there are videos on youtube which also show the bodies of the journalists, both in sackclothes and the survivors in make shift medical clinics. Thet will be smuggled out of Syria.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. / Through a Scanner, Darkly

    Not much clarity in here.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      Yeah? Turn the light on...


      Just kidding...

      February 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes


      Can you, kindly, remove the picture of the worms (amphibians?

      It's enough to make a person sick!


      February 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. high hopes

    Sackcloth is the same as a gunnysack. I'm just not sure how to spell it...

    February 23, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. vanessa

    why the heck doesn't cnn have a printing option???

    February 23, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      They're not a newspaper, maybe?

      Print screen...

      February 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      They do. Hit Alt+F4. That should help.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
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