Seven days inside Syria

It has been difficult for journalists to get into war-torn Syria, but CBC Radio's Laura Lynch had unusual access back in the spring when a UN fact-finding team toured the country. This is her look back at a year of strife and the people most affected.
Smoke rises from buildings from heavy shelling in Homs, Syria, on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. (Shaam News Network via AP video)

It has been difficult for journalists to get into Syria to report on its 21-month civil war and the impact that has had on the people living there.

The besieged Bashar al-Assad government refuses to grant visas to almost all journalists, and air strikes, sometimes on hospitals and, recently, a bread line, have made reporting dangerous.

Listen to Laura Lynch's documentary Seven days inside Syria.

Part 1

Part 2

The CBC, though, has managed to get into Syria on a handful of occasions in 2012, most recently when reporters Derek Stoffel and Sasa Petricic entered, without visas, in the fall from the Turkish frontier.

Their reports — the CBC in Syria: Under siege in Allepo — described entire streets littered with concrete blocks and rubble caused by mortar or rocket attacks. 

Earlier in the year, the CBC's Laura Lynch spent seven days in Syria under unique circumstances. The UN had just launched a fact-finding mission and certain foreign journalists were allowed in for a brief period and given greater freedom to interview ordinary Syrians on how the war was affecting them.

These are her stories from those seven days in May, and from her more recent interviews with Canadian surgeon Anas al-Kassem, who has been travelling to his birth country on a regular basis over this past year to help those injured by the fighting. 

A trauma surgeon, who normally works in Ontario, al-Kassem says he has watched hundreds of Syrians die for lack of proper medical treatment during this past year.

Currently at a new hospital in a town north of Idlib near the Turkish border, al-Kassem says the fact that this new facility has just opened is evidence that at least parts of Syria are now relatively safe.

"I think there's some advancement in terms of the Free Syrian Army controlling more of the ground," he said in a recent interview. "We're not seeing as many rockets as we saw over the last few months.

"We do see air strikes from time to time, but less fighting on the ground."