Syria: How social media is defending a town from the regime’s wrath

The Syrian regime’s apparent hesitancy to bear down on Jisr al-Shughour may have less to do with a reluctance to push the death toll even higher and more to do with its inability to hide the evidence.

In 1982, when president Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez, ordered a brutal crackdown on an Islamist uprising in the city of Hama, which killed at least 10,000, he was able to hide it for weeks.

Bashar, whose debut into public life was as head of the Syrian Computer Society, faces a modern reality of mobile phones and internet and an increasingly tech-savvy population.

Since the protests started in mid-March, Syrians have shown the world what is going on through a mixture of eyewitness accounts and amateur footage of protests and their violent aftermath. Videos are shot on mobile phones and, in some cases, small cameras that have been smuggled into the country, and usually uploaded by computer shortly afterwards.

One man in Homs recalled seeing a group huddled around a man on the floor after a demonstration. “I went over as I thought someone was injured, but it was a man with a computer using 3G to upload videos” he said.

Skype is widely used among activists to avoid monitored phone lines and some satellite phones have been smuggled into the country.

The headache for Syria, which has banned journalists, is not just from the protesters; videos taken by members of the army and security forces, often mocking those they are abusing or showing bloody dead bodies, have also leaked out.

There is always the risk that videos have been falsified or come from another country but the majority seem authentic.

Syria is expecting another internet outage this Friday after last week it was turned off across the majority of the country for the day. But the videos still came out in those areas where internet was still working – and from other areas just a day later.

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