In Aleppo, Syrian rebels wage war – with an Internet connection
Combating the constant text messages from regime forces declaring them terrorists, rebels fight an information campaign, sending images of Aleppo's death and destruction worldwide.
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The “honest among you” are praised in Aleppo and Idlib, because “the terrorists are collapsing and your correct thinking is going to make security and safety return to your cities," one text message reads. Another: “To all who carry weapons against the government, don’t link your fate to those who came with weapons from outside Syria, and don’t let them kill your loved ones, and destroy your home and your country.”Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo
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Yet another text portrays government forces as “heroes” who are “crushing the terrorists.”
“They are dreaming, it’s like another world,” says the rebel engineer. “Are we ‘terrorists’? Do we look like terrorists?”
Much of the satellite gear and computers was paid for and sent by the Syrian National Council (SNC), an umbrella group of opposition factions based in Turkey, along with other donors, the activists say. And they are not alone – similar media cells work across rebel-held areas, providing real-time images of the destruction that few foreign journalists can reach.
A cheer goes up when they get the satellite dish working: “YouTube!”
Holding flashlights and mobile phones in their teeth, the activists pick up all the computers, batteries, and the satellite modem, all connected with wires, and carry them triumphantly into a back room, safer from the danger of blasts and bullets.
“He does not have the power he talks about,” says the engineer. “For 40 years they terrorize all the people of Syria, and say they have all this power to make people afraid. But it is all lies.”
“That is why the neighbor is afraid,” explains another activist, a literature student. “It got to the point [in the past] where, even if people were sitting privately with family, and said anything against the regime, they would warn each other that ‘the walls have ears.’ ”
“The regime is so stupid! They can’t find this dish,” says the engineer, as he wrestles into onto the balcony and then checks its alignment with a compass. Other activists watch the computer monitor; everything is plugged into a huge battery for testing.
A friend of the engineer works in the government telecommunications company, and knows that its monitoring abilities are very limited. Hardly any calls are listened to, he says; few can be tracked.
And while the regime is reported to have received specific electronic assistance in this regard from Iran and Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah – including an ability to pinpoint the source of satellite communications – the sheer volume of mobile-phone traffic from all sides is simply too much to manage.
For four decades, says the engineer, the Assad family “made us have fear. He 100 percent successfully made us afraid of him.”
The neighbor children can be heard singing, chanting, and playing next door. Sometimes they fight with each other. Sometimes they call for their father. Next door, the anti-regime media activists settle onto thin mattresses, plug in a hot plate for tea, and begin their work.