Crossing into Syria: a plea from the Free Syrian Army

Journalist William Gagan, videographer Geoff Shively and fixer Amine Unitor entered Syria to see, first-hand, conditions close to the border with Turkey. Snuck in through the mountains by a Syrian military defector, they stayed for a day and returned with this footage.

Across the border, they were intercepted by members of the Free Syria Army, who gave permission to film them. In a short plea, they ask for the world's help in their fight against Assad's forces: their message starts at 10:25 in the video.

Back in Turkey, the team observed a rally in support of Syrian president Bashar Assad--and visited border refugee camps swollen by the conflict. Footage of these events is being prepared for release on Monday, said Shively, of the Telecomix hacktivist group.

Named #OpLivestreamSyria, the trip was crowdfunded with just $4,900. Though they were unable to broadcast from within the warzone using the equipment they brought--the Syrian military is known to be able to track and target satellite communications--all returned safely.

"We verified that [our guide] was former Syrian military by seeing his military ID," Geoff said. "The video shows us hiking up the mountain pass, crossing a border past an empty Turkish military guard tower, through razor wire at the border, and hiking hours into Syria to a spot above a town occupied by Assad’s forces."

The video shows them pause and nervously survey the town, quiet in a wooded valley. On a nearby ridge, a tent stands out; it is, they report, likely to belong to rebels. They're approached not long after.

"We got permission to film one of their tents and their crossing, if we blurred their faces," Shively said. "We crossed the border with them past the empty guard tower again, and hike down the mountain into Turkey. The FSA members also requested we record the plea to the world."

According to the United Nations, more than 7,500 civilian have been killed by Syrian forces in the year-old conflict. Syria's government blames the deaths on battles with "terrorists", which it says has killed 2,000 police and security personnel.

Shively adds: "Thank you to everyone who helped fund #OpLivestreamSyria, for the next Op, we are taking suggestions and evaluating the situations in Spain, Egypt, Lebanon, Greece, or elsewhere. "


  1. If no video appears, refresh the page or log in. It appears we have a load balancing problem and a broken version of the embed is ‘stuck’ on one of our boxes.

  2. i’m willing to bet once the syrian gov’t sees this video they’ll know exactly where that fsa hut is thanks to our intrepid reporter’s identification of the house with the red roof as the one the army are in. how many red roofed houses along the syria/turkey border occupied by troops can there be?

  3. The party passes a miraculously un-occupied Turkish guard tower which oversee what one would assume borders a hotbed of Syrian refugee exodus. Trekking through very dangerous, “back mountain passes”,  with no evidence of provisions ie. backpacks full of water and supplies (unless the poor camera guy was tasked with carrying all of it).  Dude pulls out a microphone (why?) and proceeds to divulge to anyone watching the exact location of a blue FSA tent and goes on to tell us how he does not want to divulge the location of this tent (WTF).  No hand-held microphone necessary during their actual movement.
    Redbull!!?  Dude looks like he’s taking a day hike up the Sierra’s with his hand-held water bottle . And then he proceeds to convince a mess of Syrian rebels to be willing to go on camera on the strength of his promise to blur out their faces in post production?

    Am I the only person who think this is a bit odd?

  4. This is clearly a civil war, but the picture we get is very one-sided. Whatever the case, it is not our struggle and we should stay far away for our benefit and the benefit of the Syrian people. We have done enough damage in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya,  and elsewhere to last many lifetimes.

    1. It’s a civil war in the technical sense. Whatever the fuck is going on, the Syrian elites (Assad, et al.) have clearly gone off the deep end and are disconnected from the global narrative in a very similar manner to the other monstrous regimes of recent history. Their shit is fucked, it’s only a matter of time.

      1. Syria is screwed.  Assad basically has no choice at this point.   He  has two options.  He can either restore his rule, or die along with a sizable minority of the population.  If there is one lesson to walk away with, it is that if you are a minority and you have a chance to seize power and forcefully hold it… don’t.    You simply can’t maintain that grip forever, and when you let go, the absolute best you can hope for is to do it as peacefully as South Africa did it.  More likely, you are going to get something that looks like Rwanda.
        The window for Assad to handover power in a manner that wouldn’t result in the genocide of the non-Sunnis has come and gone, and he knows it.  Assad will almost certainly fall at some point, but it is going to be a horrible and bloody affair.  A lot of Sunni are going to die removing him, and then a lot of Alawi and Christians are going to die retribution when he is gone.  The best you can hope for is that people come to there senses before the blood shed has gotten too bad.

    2.  The reason we’ve fucked up those countries is because we didn’t go to help; we went to exploit.

      I don’t see why the UN shouldn’t get involved – it’s a humanitarian issue in my eyes, not one of war.

  5. Syria is so beautiful. Once Syrians replace terrorists with tourists shit is gonna be fucking awesome. 

  6.  But for real you guys think the liberation armies of Kosovo, Libya, Syria etc are such? They are partisan covertly supported by a foreign government with a political aim. Liberation armies only have legitimacy in the case of a military invasion, period. Otherwise they are so malicious as the governments they try to overthrow. Assad, by the way have the support of the majority of the people, not just the religious and a group within the country. This is a civil war, no more.

    1. Assad, by the way have the support of the majority of the people

      Your opinion has been noted, Mr. Assad.

      1. You should travel more my friend, or at least read more. Every expert knows that Assad has the support of a majority if not his government would have fallen long ago.  He was last reelected in 2007, true in a unopposed referendum, but while is true there is no other candidates, if people don’t like him, the party would have to select another. Is a failed democracy, but not much of what I have witnessed in the US this century.

        1. Every expert knows that Assad has the support of a majority if not his government would have fallen long ago.

          I can’t tell if you’re being ironic or you’re really the most politically naive person in the galaxy.

    2.  When you have the support of the majority of your people you tend not to use artillery and tanks as anti-public opinion devices. Once you use those devices upon your own cities, then any claims of popular support are a lie.
      An attempt at forming a new monarchy, autocratic rule upon a hereditary basis, is now opposed by the majority. True to form once monarchies have gained power it can only be taken from them by force and the monarchy will continue killing those that oppose up until the monarchy is captured and executed.

  7. Rob, if you have a way to contact William Gagen, ask him to take down that Youtube video and replace it with one edited to reveal less information to the Syrian government.  Until he does so, I strongly recommend that you take this post down, if you value the lives of anyone living in the places shown in this video.

    1. I strongly recommend that you take this post down

      I don’t think you understand how the internet works.  This would accomplish nothing.

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