The Syrian uprising has become the most brutal of the Arab Awakening, and also the most mysterious. President Bashir al-Assad's prohibition on foreign media has left the world largely in the dark about the true nature of the protests, and the West has had to choose between the word of government and that of the activists, both of whom have their own agendas.
But finally, after eight months of unrest, video from protests and demonstrations in Syria has been released to the world. The videos were taken in secret by activists who risked their lives in putting them online. Of course, the cell phone movies and digital videos, as well as their descriptions, were made by the anti-government opposition, but the scenes depicted help illuminate what is really happening on the ground.
Much of the Syrian protests have been concentrated in the northwest, but there have been demonstrations across the country. Fighting has now broken out in the capital of Damascus, where five people were reportedly shot dead after evening prayers on Friday.
Human Rights Watch is charging Syrian forces with crimes against humanity, claiming that they have tortured civilians. The group also accused the government of setting snipers and machine guns on roofs to shoot at unarmed protesters.
In this video, an alleged government rifleman is positioned on a rooftop, where he takes aim and shoots at the activist filming him.
The United Nations now says that around 3,500 people have died in the eight-month long uprising. Many of them are thought to be unarmed civilians, some who were not even involved in protests. The government is thought to have sent tanks and helicopters into cities like Homs to crush protests before they can begin. Other deaths are the result of inter-army fighting, as soldiers defect to the opposition and begin battles with their former comrades.
Additionally, there is now speculation that protesters are arming themselves and fighting back. Many fear that a civil war could be on the way.
Violence by protesters or defectors deserves further investigation, a Human Rights Watch report said. However, these incidents by no means justify the disproportionate and systematic use of lethal force against demonstrators, which clearly exceeded any justifiable response to any threat presented by overwhelmingly unarmed crowds.
The below video shows soldiers standing around a dead body, which is then dragged through the street. The video was shot on Thursday.
Part two of the video:
In this video, a peaceful demonstration by a group of Syrians in Homs is scattered when plainclothes security forces begin shooting with live ammunition. This video was upload on Tuesday.
The theme of soldiers defecting the opposition has been part of the Syrian uprising since its onset. This video seems to confirm that these defections are happening. Below, a government soldier is hoisted on the arms of protesters.
Not all of the protests have been too violent. Here, an apparently unafraid group of citizens hold a peaceful march.