For many people outside Syria’s borders, shelling and bombings are concepts. They’re terrible and tragic, to be sure, but they remain hard to fathom as long as they remain unseen. That’s why the Anatomy of a Bombing, our most recent playlist on the Human Rights Channel, is particularly arresting. These five citizen journalist videos were all filmed in the same small town, within a roughly 24-hour period on September 17th and 18th. They give us insight into what it’s like to be in a town when it’s attacked by its own government.
The first video shows us dusk in Syria from a vantage point above Kansafra (كنصفرة), a rural town in the country’s far west. Kansafra lies in a very dangerous area. Long before the current civil war became an indiscriminate power struggle, ethnic and sectarian rivalries laid the groundwork for the conflict. Population maps show show a north-south ‘sectarian fault line’ where Assad-allied Alawites, Assad-aligned Christians, Sunni Muslims overlap. Not coincidentally, many of the cities along that line–Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Homs–have become the front lines of the war, and sources of unrelenting tragic news. Kansafra, nestled among them, was small enough to be mostly overlooked, but not forever.
In the first video of the playlist, we hear the whine of an incoming shell, launched from an unseen aircraft, and the deafening thud of impact. Dual clouds of smoke rise. Your attention is grabbed by the the thunder of the explosion and the visuals–a clear and tranquil sky marred by inky smoke. But the quiet after the explosion, as the smoke drifts noiselessly, is equally stunning. When a woman speaks in the background, her voice is calm and almost conversational. We have to wonder if that’s because to her, this is now normal.
The next citizen journalist is closer to the point of impact. By the time he’s filming, there are several more columns of smoke. He stumbles as he scrambles up a dirt embankment, trying to get closer. He’s panting, and his only phrase in English is “Why, God?”
The next two clips survey the damage. One pans steadily around a destroyed building, while the other emerges from a murky corridor into a ruined courtyard with dazed citizens walking through the debris.
And then, of course, there is the search for survivors. Sadly, this GRAPHIC video shows us a somber result: bodies are removed from the rubble.
Warning: GRAPHIC Footage
We could not have seen this incident without citizen witnesses and citizen journalists. They risk their lives to get footage like this out of the country, and give us an irreplaceable window into the conflict. There are few international journalists in Syria, and the odds are vanishingly small that they’d be able to capture this bombing.
You can watch more citizen journalist content on the Syrian conflict on the Human Rights Channel, where we keep a running feed of videos in a monthly “Watching Syria” playlist; September’s “Watching Syria” is here, and you can always find the most recent version on our front page. We have also done other thematic pieces, including playlists on bombings at two different events on the same day, and the use of cluster munitions in Syria and other countries. We’ve also covered government attacks on Daraya, Artouz, Rastan, and Tremseh.