This post was written by Matisse Bustos Hawkes, Communications Manager at WITNESS
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 grisly 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 whose 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
- The New York Times Lede Blog - particularly their excellent report "Anger and Despair in Video Messages from Besieged Syrian City of Homs" 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.
- Facebook - The Syria Revolution 2011 (with nearly 400,000 followers) they share dozens of videos each day; the Shaam News Network (much of the content is posted in Arabic on these pages but include links to translated videos and users can also use tools like Google Translate to read content in their native languages) And the Activists News Association page posts mostly in English.
- Twitter - Follow users (in alphabetical order) @acarvin @ahmed @alexanderpagesy @horanson @leshaque also follow WITNESS staff members who are frequently tweeting about Syria and the #video4change hash tag
- Livestream - Bambuser user Baba-Omer is doing live broadcasts from his webcam and activists have created several Ustream channels including Qatana Live
- Blogs - Check in on Global Voices' blogs on Syria and the Middle East for voices from inside Syria and the diaspora. Also Jillian C. York, an advocate for freedom of expression who writes frequently on the Arab world. Here is a recent opinion piece she wrote on events in Syria.
Resources for Video4Change Activists - English and Arabic
- Top 10 Tips for Filming Protests, Arrests and Police Conduct
- How-to Videos - both animated series and live action training videos illustrating best practices for creating video for change.