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. "