Ramita Navai and Wael Dabbous spend two weeks living undercover in some of the most dangerous parts of Syria with members of the opposition movement determined to overthrow President Assad's brutal dictatorship.
One of the few teams to avoid the ban on foreign media operating without official permission, they meet the protestors and the victims of the bloody crackdown, and visit the clandestine hospitals set up in private homes by doctors who risk torture or death for treating the injured.
Syria is one of the most secretive and repressive countries in the Arab world. The Assad family has been in power for 40 years and the opposition say they are campaigning against endemic corruption, nepotism and brutal suppression. Navai and Dabbous experience first-hand life as fugitives in Syria when they are trapped in a safe house with three of the country's most wanted men. As the town of Madaya is besieged by the army, the security forces and the militia spend three days raiding houses in search of activists and people who have been seen at protests.
The three men - one who says he has already been tortured for peacefully protesting - fear they will be killed if they are caught. They tell Navai that many of their friends have already been murdered by Assad's men.
With security officers right outside the safe house, the men cannot escape from the windows, and are forced to hide in a small cupboard as the raids get nearer, with dozens of houses being smashed and ransacked and men being arrested and beaten.
But nothing will stop the people of Madaya having their voices heard; less than 12 hours after the military withdraws from the town, they are fearlessly back on the streets protesting, and chanting for freedom, despite this being the very thing that can get them killed.
The team meets four soldiers who say that they defected to the opposition after being ordered to shoot at protesters, raid houses and trample on people accused of protesting - including women and children. They claim to have witnessed other soldiers who refused these orders being shot dead.
Shortly after this meeting, shooting begins in the mountains behind Madaya as the army scours the countryside in search of dissidents. The team decides to move on.
Navai and Dabbous meet a doctor who tells them that hospitals are being raided by the security forces and militia, who are then killing injured protesters. He says that doctors are also being targeted for helping the injured, and many have been imprisoned.
The doctor says he has smuggled patients out of hospitals and is now treating them in 'secret hospitals' - simply ill-equipped private houses in secret locations. The fear of being discovered by informers and raided is so great that patients are moved from safe house to safe house, despite so many of them being in critical condition.
The team visits four protesters with gunshot wounds. One is a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head and is half paralyzed. Another man has been left brain damaged because he could not get the urgent medical attention needed in time, as the doctors in the hospital were too scared to treat him. All the while, the activists are receiving phone calls about more injured and more killed.
With hundreds of people missing, either in prisons across the country or dead, and hundreds not reported killed for fear of recrimination, most of the activists believe the death toll is closer to 10,000 than the estimated 2000 to 3000 being reported in the press. The violence is relentless but the activists of the democracy movement remain uncowed.Watch now on 4oD
|Friday 14 October 2011||Channel 4|
|Friday 14 October 2011||7.30PM||Channel 4|