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Video From Syria Alerts Activist To His Father's Death

Oct 15, 2012
Originally published on October 15, 2012 9:48 am

The numbers coming out of Syria these days are staggering: hundreds of thousands of refugees, tens of thousands dead. The struggle, and the death, is being captured regularly on social media. The documentation not only serves as a bulletin for foreigners, but also as an alert for those with family members who become victims.

When Syrians first started protesting in March of last year, Fadi Zeidan was there. He and his friends thought the Syrian uprising would be fast, like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt.

Then Zeidan was detained and beaten three times between April and September 2011. He managed to get released and keep up his activist work. He shot, assembled and uploaded videos of protests. Later, he also produced videos of battles fought by men who've taken up arms to fight against government forces.

Zeidan eventually left Syria. These days, he still disseminates videos from the inside.

"All the time we receive the videos from all the town and cities, and we work on it to send it — send the video to the channels and news agencies," he says.

Every day, Zeidan sits and watches dozens of gruesome videos. One that came across his desk a few weeks ago is a crude one-minute clip. A shaky camera shows the dead bodies of a dozen or so men, on a black-and-white tile floor. A piece of paper with a number is attached to each body's chest.

Other men mill around, peering at the faces of the dead. One man wails in agony.

Zeidan played the video a few times. But he didn't look too closely. As always, he sent the link around. A few hours later, the phone rang.

"At 5 o'clock, my mother called me [from Syria]," he says. "She asked me first, 'Are you alone?' I said 'no.' 'Are you with your friend?' I said, 'Yes, I'm with my friend.' "

"Good," she said, "I'm sending you a link by Facebook. You must watch it."

It was the same video Zeidan had seen earlier in the day. But this time he looked closer. He focused on the faces of the dead men.

Zeidan realized one of the dead men was his father. He had a bullet hole in his head.

"All the time we work on this media — on these videos. But when I see my father in this video, I'm freeze," he says.

Zeidan's mother told him two days before that his father had been detained by security forces. His body was later tossed in the street. Activists found him, shot the video, buried him and the other dead men, and sent word to Zeidan's family.

This is how the Syrian war is playing out right now — especially in and around the capital, Damascus. If a town or neighborhood is seen as supporting the anti-government movement, or, worse, housing anti-government rebels, it becomes a target.

Residents in Zeidan's area say his father is one of hundreds of people who've been executed in recent months.

Zeidan says the whole thing is still unreal. He says his family has decided to put off their mourning until their work is done.

"Now, I'm not afraid if I die. I'm not afraid. Because all of us is the same. All the people need freedom, and all the people work to take it," he says.

So for now, Zeidan will keep sending out videos, sometimes going back to Syria to shoot the videos.

His father, Moheddin Zeidan, will remain another number. A 55-year-old man, a lawyer, killed in September 2012.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next sentence is a little hard to believe, but it's believed to be true. In recent weeks, the conflict in Syria has been more violent than the worst days of the war in Iraq. The numbers can be mind numbing. Hundreds of thousands of refugees, tens of thousands dead. Periodically, NPR's Kelly McEvers stops to tell us about some of the individuals behind those numbers. Here's your latest story.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: When Syrians first started protesting in March of last year, Fadi Zeidan was there. He and his friends thought the Syrian uprising would be fast, like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt. Then, Fadi was detained and beaten three times. He managed to get released and keep up his activist work. He shot, assembled and uploaded videos of protests and, later, videos of battles fought by men who'd taken up arms to fight against government forces.

Fadi eventually left Syria. These days, he still disseminates videos from the inside.

FADI ZEIDAN: All the time we receive the videos from all the town and city and we work on it to send the video to the channels and the news agency.

MCEVERS: Every day, Fadi sits and watches dozens of gruesome videos. Like this one that came across his desk a few weeks ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)

MCEVERS: It's a crude minute. A shaky camera shows the dead bodies of a dozen or so men on a black-and-white tile floor. A piece of paper with a number is attached to each body's chest. Other men mill around, peering at the faces of the dead, curious perhaps, trying to find a friend. One man wails in agony.

Fadi played the video a few times. But he didn't look too closely. Then, as always, he sent the link around. A few hours later, the phone rang.

ZEIDAN: At 5 o'clock, my mother called me.

MCEVERS: Fadi's mother is still in Syria.

ZEIDAN: She asked me first, Are you alone? I said no. Are you with your friend? I said, Yes, yeah, I'm with my friend.

MCEVERS: Good, she said, I'm sending you a link by Facebook. You must watch it.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)

MCEVERS: It was the same video Fadi had seen earlier in the day. But this time he looked closer, he focused on the faces of the dead men.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Fadi realized one of the dead men was his father. He had a bullet hole in his head.

What did you do when you realized that? I mean...

ZEIDAN: I mean, all the time we work on this media, of these videos. But when I seeing my father in this video, I'm freeze (unintelligible).

MCEVERS: You just froze? You froze?

Fadi's mother told him two days before his father had been detained by security forces. His body was later tossed in the street. Activists found him, shot the video, buried him and the other dead men, and sent word to Fadi's family. Residents in Fadi's area say his father is one of hundreds of people who've been executed in recent months. Fadi says the whole thing is still unreal. He says his family has decided to put off their mourning until their work is done.

ZEIDAN: No, I'm not afraid if I die. I'm not afraid. Because all of us is the same, really. All the people need freedom, and all the people work to take it.

MCEVERS: So for now, Fadi will keep sending out videos, sometimes going back to Syria to shoot the videos. And his father, Moheddin Zeidan, will remain another number. A 55-year-old man, a lawyer, killed in September 2012.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.