Friday October 06, 2017

Journalist who risks life in Syrian war shares her story

The people of Syria of inspired Reem al-Halabi to document the abuses of her government. (Reuters)

The people of Syria of inspired Reem al-Halabi to document the abuses of her government. (Reuters)

Listen 17:40

Read story transcript

When the Syrian uprising began in 2011, Reem al-Halabi lived in Aleppo, where she had a front row view of the protests against president Bashar al-Assad.

She was compelled to stay and document the violence she witnessed.

Al-Halabi was reporting live on a funeral in 2012 for the Al Arabiya news network. People were chanting for democracy and denouncing the violence of the Syrian government.

It was there that al-Halabi was shot in the back.

"I was carrying a cell phone to film and I stood up on a car to get a higher view to what was happening and to show how the security forces were targeting protesters," al-Halabi tells The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"I was the one who was targeted because it was very clear that I was filming and the Syrian regime has always been afraid of journalists, of the cell phone, of the camera because that's the eye through which the world can see what was really happening in Syria."

'Go after the truth … That's something that really helps.' - Reem al-Halabi 

Al-Halabi was afraid of what would happen next, since several of her friends had died while being tortured by the Syrian government. Security forces did find al-Halabi at the private hospital where she was being treated.

"They came to my room and they put me in handcuffs and shackled my feet until I told them what they wanted to hear," she says.

"I basically said that I didn't see who hit me, that I have no idea who it was and that I happened to be at that funeral by pure coincidence."

Al-Halabi was told she would have to appear in court, and that she could no longer travel. It was at that point that she snuck across the border to Turkey.

From there, al-Halabi launched her own radio station, Nasaem Souria Radio, to tell the stories of Syrians.

Reem

Reem al-Halabi (right) and Zein Almoghraby, a senior programs manager at JHR. (Ahmed Shawy)

"I wanted to know how I could get our voice out to the world to say, listen world, and look what's happening to us in Syria," she says.

"Look at the violations taking place. Look at the demands that we're making."

But feeling that the world at large wasn't listening, and watching Syrian government repression get worse, al-Halabi turned her focus instead to Syrians themselves, whose communication with the wider world was being cut off.

Her station started to give them information on what was going on in their own communities, and offer emergency information when shelling was happening.

And Syrians could also call in to tell their stories.

"It was like a dream for Syrians to have radio that's different from what they've been hearing every day," she says.

"The same old speeches, the same agendas. They wanted to hear the truth, to look for the truth, to go after the truth … That's something that really helps."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar.