17 Feb 2012

Syria: ‘Other countries must know what is happening’

Channel 4 News gains exclusive access to one of the anti-government protests taking place across Syria – and witnesses one town’s attempt to get its message to the outside world.

Every Friday the men of this town in northern Syria demand the downfall of the Assad regime. “Bashar you’re leaving!” they sing. “Your crimes are obvious. Till you have fallen we won’t calm down.”

And it’s been the same demand every fruitless Friday for almost eleven months.

“We are demonstrating inside to avoid an army bombardment,” says one man, while the town poet breaks into verse: “Our mothers are crying blood,” he shouts. “We hear them weeping, and we will carry on till nature is green again.”

The weekly protest – one of several taking place across Syria, according to videos posted on the internet – comes as David Cameron admitted he was dissatisfied with the international community’s support of the Syrian opposition movement.

There’s no difference between the innocent or the guilty. They are tortured anyway. I want other countries to know what is happening here. Mohaned Hilal

Speaking at a Franco-British summit in Paris, Mr Cameron said: “What is happening in Syria is appalling. I’m not satisfied that we are taking all the action we can.”

Mohaned Hilal, a 20-year-old student, says he was tortured after being arrested by Syrian soldiers on his way to college last month.

At his home he shows me the video evidence. Soldiers stamped on him, he says, and beat him unconscious.

“There’s no difference between the innocent or the guilty,” he told Channel 4 News. “They are tortured anyway. I want other countries to know what is happening here.”

A revolutionary media centre

If it is possible, people here try to film the government’s crimes and every anti-government protest. Those films are then taken to this secret location – Saraqib’s very own revolutionary media centre.

Abdullah Al Mohamed is the town’s filmmaker-in-chief. The video of today’s demonstration is the latest of over a thousand clips he has sent to Facebook, YouTube and TV stations around the world.

“When the revolution started I didn’t know how to do this work but I decided not to be afraid,” he told Channel 4 News. “The Syrian regime doesn’t allow a free media. It is not really my job but I have to do it, so others get the message.”

And this town’s message is a simple one. That though its revolutionary gunmen are seriously outgunned by their own government, the uprising here is far from over.