At Great Risk, Syrians Document Testimonies and Human Rights Abuse with Video

Posted on February 9, 2012 by Matisse Bustos Hawkes

Since international media have been barred from entering Syria since mid 2011, news reports have relied heavily on activists in country who daily risk their own safety to film and share video and speak with reporters. Activists in Syria harness available internet communication, as well as mobile phones and the strategic use of dedicated satellite modems and communications infrastructure to get multimedia content out quickly and effectively.

In this post, we highlight some valuable sources for keeping up with the deteriorating situation in Syria (particularly for English-speakers) and provide resources for how you can help activists using video for change, in Syria and around the world, more safely and effectively.

The Power of Personal Stories

My colleague Chris Michael, our Video Advocacy Training Manager shared some thoughts with me:

Syria has been an epicenter of video for change for nearly a year. At great risk, Syrians have been recording and sharing content quickly – documenting the breadth and consistency of demonstrations throughout the country, calls for justice, as well as the subsequent brutality and oppression of the Assad regime.

Through the flood of literally tens of thousands of videos that continue to come out of Syria, we see activists develop best practices to capture video for potential evidentiary use.  They take necessary, but often dangerous steps, to capture the location of where they are filming, context to the situation, and attempt to protect the identify of demonstrators, interviewees, the wounded and sometimes the dead.

We are working to support Syrian activists through sharing our materials and developing new ones that are specific to the unique challenges they’re facing. We have a lot to learn from these human rights defenders who have been forced to become video for change leaders.

We share some of those training materials and resources below.

A lot of the footage that has been uploaded from Syria has been graphic in nature, showing the grizzly results of the bombardments, snipers and other weapons aimed at members of the Syrian Free Army as well as civilians. Debates continue about the efficacy of showing this footage.

Regardless, we know that personal stories can be effective at conveying the toll of such events. Again my colleague Chris notes:

We’re seeing a surge of personal stories and testimonies from people directly affected – mothers who have lost their sons; daughters who’s fathers have been detained, tortured and killed by the regime; and others who are using video to show and tell the world what is happening.

These personal accounts, along with the visual evidence Syrians are capturing further illuminate the tragedy they are facing, and help greatly amplify their calls for justice and accountability. Video has played a major role to support calls to end the violence – and hopefully will be used as evidence to ensure accountability.

One example of these personal stories shared in December is below. There is not much by way of visuals in the video, just an impassioned voice asking for help from the international community and condemning the acts of the Assad government:

Where to Find Video4Change From Syria

Mainstream News

  • The New York Times Lede Blog – particularly their excellent report yesterday “Anger and Despair in Video Messages from Besieged Syrian City of Homs”  http://nyti.ms/xZPbXf Look at the end of the article for several other reports by the Lede team on Syria.
  • BBC News reporter Paul Wood and cameraman Fred Scott are in Homs. Watch their reports on this aggregated page
  • Al Jazeera English – Follow their coverage via the Syria Live Blog as well as their Middle East page
  • CNN International – like this report from Doctors Without Borders on medical care available to Syrian civilians
  • Human Rights organizations -  like Human Rights Watch are sharing reporting and advocating for the end of the assault on civilians.

Social Media

Resources for Video4Change Activists – English and Arabic

We have produced several training materials that may be of use to activists using Video4Change in Syria and beyond.
In Arabic
In English
Please add resources or sources of information on Syria below!
Special thanks to Chris Michael, Sam Gregory, Priscila Neri, Raja Althaibani for sharing their valuable resources.

What Others Are Saying

  1. Matisse Bustos Hawkes February 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Interesting piece on today’s Lede blog on the New York Times about the perspective of events in Syria as shown by the Assad governments allies: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/crisis-in-syria-looks-very-different-on-satellite-channels-owned-by-russia-and-iran/

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