Syria’s citizen journalists

Mohammed Sergie reports: Omar, a former marketing student at a private university in Damascus, is living a life he never could have imagined. He’s originally from Idlib, one of Syria’s smaller cities in the heart of the northwest olive groves. Now he’s living in the line of fire as a media activist, documenting violence and escorting foreign journalists and human rights workers through Syrian terrain.

The role of media activist has bloomed in Syria. For scores of young revolutionaries, the most effective way to serve in the uprising is to essentially become an itinerant cameraman, capturing scenes in battle and uploading them to a global audience. Many become fixers for foreign news outlets as a source of income. Omar, for one, didn’t ask for money. He was just glad to have a professional journalist, especially one with Syrian roots, join him for the ride.

In Idlib province, where Omar does most of his work, the Assad regime has kept control of the major city, but lost the surrounding terrain. Its army, security forces and irregular militia members, or shabiha, have pulled back to the provincial capital. The city itself has swollen in number from 200,000 to 750,000, as rebels fighting for control of the towns and villages in Idlib have sent their families to relative safety. They can’t openly express themselves there, but they are free from the regime shelling and air strikes that pound the rebel held areas.

Omar, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Al Huda, has memorized the topography of Idlib province, charting its farm roads and villages during the revolution. A lively tour guide, he points out the landmark battles for military bases in the countryside and highlights the aftermath of MiG strikes and barrel bombs.

“You are riding in a martyr’s car,” he said, explaining that the hole in the driver’s seat was made by the bullet that killed his 27-year-old brother Mouayad Al Ghafeer in June. [Continue reading…]

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