YouTube, Facebook, Twitter: Tools of Syrian Opposition

Henry Ridgwell

Of all the uprisings across the Arab world, Syria is proving the hardest for the global media to cover. Opposition groups are therefore heavily reliant on social media - the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter - to convey what is happening. Our reporter recently traveled to neighboring Lebanon for VOA, and found a sophisticated network of Syrian activists taking the opposition fight online.

A shaky amateur video seemingly taken on a cell phone appears to show shells falling on the city of Homs.

It is one of hundreds, possibly thousands of similar videos uploaded to social media websites like YouTube in the past few weeks.

In the absence of many foreign journalists, social media has become one of the key tools for telling the outside world what is happening is Syria.

Just over the border in Lebanon, Abdi Hakim Ijburi sits talking to other Syrian refugees at a camp in the town of Wadi Khaled. He says he had a good life in Syria, selling fabrics.  When the Arab Spring erupted he got online and found many others wanting to emulate the protests in Egypt and Tunisia.

"At first, we started using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to get a group of young people and activists together,” he said. “And from that group we started organizing. In Talkalakh where I come from, we started writing anti-government graffiti on walls.”

Hakim says as the protests built momentum, he was captured and tortured. Like thousands of other Syrians, he escaped into Lebanon from where he continues to help organize the online opposition.

“There were lots of people in my hometown of Talkalakh that I didn’t even know were part of the opposition movement, or were sympathetic with the movement,” he said. “And if it hadn’t been for the social media we wouldn’t have become united.”

Activists are circulating advice online on how to film videos of corpses and torture victims for use in any future trials.

One message sent to VOA via Skype suggests filming both entry and exit wounds from gunshots so the type of weapon can be determined; and including a copy of the day's newspaper to prove the timing.

Emanuelle Esposti, a columnist and blogger in Britain, has been analyzing the use of such videos by foreign mainstream media.

“It’s very difficult to know where that video has actually come from, who’s behind it, why are they behind it," said Esposti. "Because there’s nobody there on the ground, because there’s no reporter there that can say ‘Yes, I’ve looked out of my window and I’ve seen this.’”

One of the most prolific activists in Syria was Rami al-Sayed. He used the website ‘Bambuser’ to broadcast purported live pictures of the shelling of Homs to the outside world.

Fellow activists say he was killed by shrapnel.

Media analysts say the recent deaths of two foreign journalists in Homs have left the outside world even more dependent on Syria’s citizens to document the violence.   

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs