British journalist Ramita Navai ventured into the conflict zones of Syria for two whole weeks to film a documentary that chronicles the atrocities committed by the regime against civilians.
Pretending to be visiting for tourism, Ramita Navai, who is of Iranian origins, broke the ban Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is imposing on the media with a documentary that came to be called “Undercover Syria” and was aired October 14 on Britain’s channel 4 as part of the Unreported World series that aims at focusing on events that are not given enough media attention for one reason or another.
The film, directed by Underreported World reporter and director Wael Dabbous, is one of the few independent sources to expose the lies of the regime regarding the presence of armed gangs that go around killing civilians. It films peaceful demonstrations in which protestors are unarmed and in which security forces shoot live ammunition at them.
The authentic footage renders void all official statements to the effect that media outlets are taking part in a conspiracy against Syria.
The film shows Navai joining the funeral procession of Ayman Zaghloul who was killed by Syrian security forces on September 19 in the city of Arabeen in the Rif Dimashq Governorate. She also joins a demonstration in the city of Duma, also in Rif Dimashq, and interviews many of the protestors.
The film shows activists making lists of all protestors killed by Syrian forces and filming videos of atrocities committed by the regime, both kept in secret places in order to be presented later to international organizations. The film also conveys the state of constant fear those activists live in as they anticipate their arrest and/or death at the hands of security any moment.
Navai spent 72 hours in the city of Madaya in Rif Dimashq where she was given shelter by a member of the General Association of the Syrian Revolution. There she filmed acts of vandalism carried out by the regime’s thugs right after they stormed the city.
She left the city then but returned a few days later to film anti-Assad demonstrations and expressed her surprise at the presence of whole families in the rallies, despite brutal repressive measures.
Navai visited houses that were turned into field hospitals after several protestors were arrested, killed, or beaten up ─ or all three ─ when they were transferred to state hospitals for treatment from the regime’s bullets.
She focused on Mohamad, one of the injured, who is in a critical condition and needs to be admitted to the intensive care unit, yet was transferred to one of those “secret hospitals” for fear he will be killed if he goes to a state hospital.
One of the doctors interviewed tells Navai that he knows of cases when security forces shot dead patients in their hospital beds and pointed out that even doctors are now in danger for volunteering to treat victims of the regime’s brutality.
Navai also met dissident soldiers who admitted they were ordered to shoot unarmed civilians, including children, and that those who did not obey the orders were killed.
Another defector tells Navai that a soldier in his unit, stationed in Daraa, refused to shoot the protestors due to the presence of women and children among them. He was shot at the back of his head on the spot. He adds that on that day almost 40 protestors were killed by the soldiers of this unit.
Ramita Navai obtained her degree in Broadcast Journalism in 2003 from London’s City University and worked as a Time correspondent in Tehran from 2003 till 2006.
Before joining Unreported World, she reported from Afghanistan on the status of women, from Iraqi Kurdistan on the refugee crisis, and from Pakistan on the Kashmir earthquake.
Her films for Unreported World include “El Salvador: The Child Assassins,” “USA: Down and Out,” and “Zimbabwe’s Blood Diamonds” in 2010 and “Burundi: Boys Behind Bars” and “Breaking Into Israel” in 2011.
(This article was translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)