Over thirty five thousand dead, with the toll rising daily, the horror of the Syrian civil war seems endless. Clover Films producer Jamie Doran and Guardian correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad travel to the frontline where rebel fighters face the forces of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, witnessing the deadliest period of the fighting so far.
On the surface, here are an immensely brave group of men determined to overthrow what they regard as a murderous and corrupt regime. But those same men are also highly disorganised, with little military strategy or a unified command structure. They have a poor supply of ammunition, are forced to use dangerous homemade explosives and, in the words of one of their commanders, will win this war only through ‘casualties and a willingness to die’.
Incorporating some shocking scenes, this film tells the story of the frontline battles to gain territory, inch by inch, while facing the might of the Syrian army with its tanks and artillery that bomb residential areas and rebel positions from morning until night. With air superiority in the form of MIGs, Sukhois and helicopter gunships, they tear up the ground, killing civilians and rebels alike with impunity.
But Syrian Army commanders are reluctant to push their foot-soldiers forward into direct battle with the rebels for fear that many from the lower ranks, where the majority are Sunni, will defect. Our cameras are present as a defector changes sides amidst jubilant celebrations amongst the rebels.
The film also looks at the increasingly key role of government snipers. Dead bodies, young and old, litter the streets as civilians, unable or unwilling to flee, cower in fear of a moment’s death. This is a psychological war, a dirty war.
Hard questions are asked of the rebels themselves, the most important of which is what they will do should Islamic fundamentalists, who are fighting alongside them today, attempt to gain power in a new Syria? It is currently a ‘marriage of convenience’, but how long can it last?
Amongst secularist rebel commanders, the answer to that final question is unanimous:
‘The real battle for Syria begins after victory. We will fight anyone who tries to turn our country into an extreme Islamic state. If necessary, we will start a new revolution.’
Reporter: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
Camera: Jeremy Bailey-Hoover
Assistant Producer/2nd Camera: Mohammed Ali
Director/Producer: Jamie Doran
In Association with:
Links we like: