Last week, a video showing soldiers humiliating prisoners in a village in northern Syria was broadcast on a continuous loop on television channels around the world. The Syrian government declared the video a fake, claiming that it was actually made in Iraq. Opposition activists decided to go to the village to confirm the veracity of the video.
is such in Syria that there exist very few professional photos or videos of the current popular uprising. International channels and independent Syrian media have relied on amateur images
to show the extent of the repression against opposition demonstrators. The state media limits itself to relaying the official view, which claims that the protestors are rioters, hoodlums, or Salafists
, and tends to lapse into conspiracy theories.
Controversy has recently focused on a video which is thought to have been filmed on April 12th, when soldiers and armed militias entered the village of Baida, seven kilometres from the north-western city of Banias. The video shows the military humiliating prisoners and knocking them to the ground. Notably, the victims are being forced to chant slogans in favour of the regime.
Syrian television channels questioned the authenticity of the video, claiming that it was filmed in Iraq
In response, two Syrian Web users went to film the place where this event took place (video below).
"We’re not claiming to be journalists but when the media doesn’t do – or cannot do – its job properly, it is up to us to do it for them"
Hani lives in Banias.
We came across the video showing the humiliation of prisoners in Baida on the Internet last Tuesday. Personally, I didn’t doubt its authenticity for a second. I have family who live there and I know the village very well: I know what the army did there. I even recognized some of the prisoners in the video
When Syrian television showed the video and claimed that it had been filmed in Iraq, I was outraged. The regime’s supporters also contacted major Arab news channels and told them it was a fake. This is the usual strategy adopted by the official media in Syria. But this time, we had the chance to carry out a counter enquiry.
We went to the village with a camera. First of all we filmed the entrance into the village, to prove that we were definitely in Baida. Then we went to the main square, to the exact spot where the images were filmed. To be sure that it is the same place in both videos, all you have to do is compare the two films: you can see the red tiles of the rooftops of the shops, the window displays. Everything matches perfectly.
We also spoke to the local residents and recorded the testimony of a young man who was taken in for questioning on the day the video was shot. We’re not claiming to be journalists but when the media doesn’t do – or cannot do – its job properly, it’s up to us to do it for them. I think that people are becoming increasingly aware of the role that the Internet can play in the events taking place around us, how it can be used to inform people or broadcast information. On Sunday (17th April), I asked my brother to set up a 3G line for me in Tartouss (neighbouring town of Banias). He couldn’t do it because there was such a high demand for Internet.”
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.