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Life Underground: Syrians Seek Surviv...
Hama
By TTM Contributor 9
11 Mar 2015

Hama, Syria
March 11, 2015

Rebels and civilians in the Latamina area of northern Syria have taken to digging mountain shelters in order to protect themselves from government forces. A rebel battalion called Tajmmu al-Izza (Pride Gathering), aligned to the Free Syrian Army and operative in rural parts of Idlib and Hama provinces, is doing the bulk of the digging.

The ensuing network of artificial caves provides a base for combatants, as well as a shelter for the dwindling numbers of civilians who have not fled the area. These caves also house a field hospital and pharmacy with 30 meter walls and continue to serve civilians and fighters alike. On the other hand, any makeshift medical centers built above ground were routinely bombed by Assad forces, according to an interviewed rebel spokesman.

This video shows detailed scenes of workers digging one of these makeshift caves with only simple tools, a task that usually takes about 12-15 days to be completed. Footage also includes interviews with the spokesman and the head of Tajmmu al-Izza.

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Wide of rebel vehicles outside cave
Wide of entry point to caves guarded by rebels

Wide of workers digging
Wide of worker taking debris out using wheel barrow
Various of workers drilling rocks
Various of workers taking debris out using wheel barrow
Various of workers building protection wall to shield cave entrance from bomb shrapnel

Wide of makeshift pharmacy
Wide of nurse working in pharmacy
Wide of entrance and emergency room in makeshift medical center
Various of nurse handling medication
Various of medical workers setting up operation room
Close-up of nurse preparing injection

Various of medical worker setting up operation room
Interview with Ubada al-Hamwi, rebel spokesperson
Various/ cutaways of Ubada al-Hamwi
Various of makeshift medical center and other caves
Various of rebel fighters inside caves

Medium of batteries used to provide lighting
Various of rebels in an office inside a cave Various/ Cutaways of Major Jamil al-Saleh, head of Tajmmu al-Izza Rebel Group
Interview with Major Jamil al-Saleh, head of Tajmmu al-Izza Rebel Group
Various/ Cutaways of Major Jamil al-Saleh, head of Tajmmu al-Izza Rebel Group

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Ubada al-Hamwi, rebel spokesperson
05:26 – 07:22

“The hospital was built underground in a rocky cliff. The rocks above it are about 30 meters high. This was done because of the bombing carried out by the regime, using explosive barrels and rockets. There was a need for an underground hospital to be built in order to protect medical staff, as well civilians and [fighters] who are being treated from injuries. The hospital has been established about 11 months ago. Most of the cases involve civilians injured in bombings. They could be injured by bomb shrapnel or suffer amputation. [The hospital provides] first aid to civilians. Fighters are usually treated from gunshots; undergo chest catheterization; and have shrapnel removed from their bodies as a result of mortar bombing. They also undergo surgery, which includes cutting the abdomen.
We needed a building that could protect doctors and medical workers, as well as the injured receiving treatment. An injured person feels more comfortable in a safe location.
Before we came up with this idea, we had an ordinary building that was repeatedly hit. We came up with this idea to provide the injured with safe and healthy conditions.
Digging was carried out using simple tools, such as drill compressors. The human effort involved was very large.”

07:02 – 07:22
“I am 23 years old. I studied Physics – I was in my second year at Tishreen University in Lattakia. I left university and joined the revolution since the outbreak of the early demonstrations.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Major Jamil al-Saleh, head of Tajmmu al-Izza Rebel Group

08:58 - 13:01
"We resorted to building underground shelters and caves to protect ourselves from the barbaric air and artillery bombing carried out by the regime. We went to the mountains because the altitudes above the caves are quite high. Caves have at least 20 or 30 meters of altitude above them. This provides more protection for our men and equipment. Hence, we have become able to last longer under air and artillery bombing carried out by the regime, thanks be to God. This gives us more strength, thanks to the thickness of the walls, which we can achieve by digging into hills.
The digging process… we are able to provide health services as well as electricity and water, but we face difficulty in providing these services. The means that we, rebels, have are limited. We do not have digging machinery. We are using simple tools. We do not have good means to provide fortification. We rely on manual labor. Our men are making a big effort.
We are accelerating our work, theerfore it takes about 12-15 days to finish a cave. By the end of this time caves would be ready for our men to use them. About 12-15 days, depending on the area of the cave.
Aircraft bomb field hospitals the moment they are discovered, whether these hospitals are used by fighters or locals civilians. This is done to exert pressure on the rebels' popular support base. We had to build hospitals in protected areas the same way we built headquarters.

"Thanks be to God, medical staff are able to carry out their work under bombing because of these hospitals. They serve the civilians – this is something that we care much about. We are also protecting medical staff because we need them in the current war circumstances.
The number of caves is very large. Civilians as well as rebels have resorted to caves. Caves are everywhere because they protect us. It is difficult to remain in the northern part of Hama province without these caves.
We, as fighters, are able to follow up on our work thanks to God and these caves.
Civilians have to stay inside these caves to be able to live. They are not happy with this, but many people have no other alternative. They cannot leave the area. You saw the weather conditions that we experienced this year. There was a lot of rainfall and it was very cold. People suffered a lot.

Power is provided by generators and water is extracted from wells. The regime has stopped providing services, such as diesel and electricity. It is not only rebels; civilians suffer from this as well. There is no flour or bread. All of this is provided by aid organizations from Turkey because the regime has stopped offering these services two years ago.”

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The Syrian Teenager Who "Chose" War O...
Morek, Hama
By TTM Contributor 9
30 Jan 2015

Morek, Hama, Syria

January 30, 2015

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Khodr al-Hajji left school more than a year ago to fight against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Mohammad joined the opposition battalion formed by his father. He receives regular military training and has been positioned on the frontline outside the town of Morek near Hama, in an area called al-Sayyad. Opposition fighters took this area from the Syrian government’s forces fourth months ago. In a year or two, Mohammad hopes to actively engage in battles.

Mohammad’s case is not unique. Many children have been drawn into the Syrian conflict as it nears its fourth year. According to a Human Rights Watch report, non-state militias of different affiliations have recruited dozens of teenagers and given them perilous military tasks.

Khodr, Mohammad's father, says that even though his son is young, he might not be safer at home because he could die in an airstrike.

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Various of Mohammad and other fighters resting in a cave

Close-up of Mohammad’s face
Close-ups of Mohammad’s hand

Various of Mohammad and other fighters inside a cave watching battle videos
Various of Mohammad lying down on a mattress inside a cave Wide of Mohammad helping his father wear military vest
Various of Mohammad and other fighters waling in a field
Medium of Mohammad loading his rifle
Various of Mohammad and other fighters inspecting anti-aircraft machinegun
Various of Mohammad and other fighters inspecting military positions
Various of Mohammad walking
Various of Mohammad loading his weapon
Wide of Mohammad holding his rifle inside a trench
Various of Mohammad with other fighters practice shooting SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Boy) Mohammad al-Hajji
07:39- 11:31
“I am Mohammad, the son of Khodr al-Hajji. We are positioned on al-Sayyad frontline in Morek. God willing, we shall stay steadfast. We have gone to war for the sake of God. God willing, we shall remain steadfast. I was at school and I was watching TV. I saw destruction and children. I went for the quest of freedom, against Assad’s infidel regime.
I saw my father and brothers fighting against the Assad regime. I decided to practice jihad with them. I have been here for a short while, but my father taught me how to use weapons – how to disassemble and reassemble a rifle and shoot, thanks be to God.
I saw people going out in demonstrations for the sake of God. I saw my father and brothers participating in battles. I said to my father that I wanted to learn how to use weapons. He said: “Do not learn this. You should stay away from this business.” I said: “Let me learn.”
Later on, he taught me how to use rifles. He first taught me to dissemble and reassemble the rifle and he then he let me shoot. I started to go with him to battles.
I was with my friends and I saw that they all participated in jihad, and I wanted to be like them.
At first, I used to like this but I do like anything after the trouble.
Interviewer: Why?
Because of these circumstances. We are scared of warplanes because they bomb schools. We stopped going to school. I stopped going to school a year ago. I am in the eighth grade. Warplanes bombed the school and we stopped going there.
Interviewer: When was that?
About a year or more. Only a child was injured. He was injured at school.
I am positioned on al-Sayyad hill, the Morek frontline. I am learning how to shoot if the enemy comes.
In the village, we saw the bodies of people killed by the army at a checkpoint. Good God, they were all disfigured. I was very scared, but after I saw this I stopped caring about anything.
When I first grabbed the rifle I felt something very great. It was something very great. We have taken arms for the sake of freedom and God almighty.
There is no work. People have stopped working. We want to work but there is nothing to do. I kept participating in the revolution.
Why is he [Bashar al-Assad] fighting against us? Why? It is his fault.

Interview: Why?
He is fighting against us. They know that we are Muslims and they can see what is happening to the people, yet he is fighting against us. This is his fault. He is a Muslim and so are we, yet he is fighting against us. We consider him a disbeliever. He is killing Muslims. He is killing people and destroying homes.”

Various/ Medium of Mohammad. NAT Sound: (Arabic) Mohammad and another fighter argue with a local man about the need not to light a fire in order to keep the area safe from airstrikes.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Boy) Mohammad al-Hajji, Child Fighter
12:30 – 14:15
The trigger. Shooting. This is something great. Shooting at the enemy is quite something. I stay on guard. If the army advances, we fight against it.
Both; I listen to my father and I go to battles. I am still young and I am learning. In a year or two, I will start participating in battles, God willing.
Interviewer: Suppose that you were injured in a battle. What would you do? Suppose you were shot in the leg, God forbid. What would you do? Your father is far from you.
What would I do? I would keep resisting until I die.
Interviewer: If you were hit in the leg, you have this walkie-talkie in your pocket and this rifle, and you are lying down on the ground and cannot walk. What would you do?
I would call my father on the walkie-talkie in order to cover me and move me out. If I was hit in a battle, I would call my father on the walkie-talkie. The men will cover me and they will move me out.
If my injury was lethal I would be scared, but what could I do? My father would take me to hospital and the doctor would treat me. God willing, I will remain steadfast.”
Various of Mohammad inside a trench
Various of Mohammad assembling and loading his weapon Various of Mohammad aiming his weapon
Close-ups of Mohammad’s hands holding a rifle
Various of Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s father, outdoor
Close-ups of Khodr al-Hajji’s hands and face
Medium of Khodr al-Hajji talking to fighters of his group inside a cave
NAT Sound (Arabic) (15:29) Over the walkie-Talkie: Mohammad Abu al-Lays, look at the fields, look at the vehicles. Where are you? Mohammad Abu al-Lays do you hear me? Where are you? (16:24) Tell us more, how long have you been here? What are your plans for the future? (16:33) (16:34) Day 57. Everybody is firing at us. We were staying at a house… (16:44) Mohammad was with you? - No, Mohammad was not with us yet, but the older one Ahmad was. He was 17 - 18 years old. He was born in 1996 (16:58). (16:59) How many children do you have? - I have 10, five girls and five boys. The boys are Mohammad, Ahmad, Bachir, Nazeer (17:05)

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s Father, Head of opposition armed group
(17:43)

Khodr Ahmad al-Hajji from Morek, from Idlib province, the village of Maarat Dibsah. When we first started engaged in the revolution, it was peaceful. The regime started to use violence against us and fire at us while we were demonstrating. You would be marching in a demonstration clapping your hands when suddenly the regime’s men start to fire at you, and people start to fall around you. Things took a new turn. We lost many martyrs.
It was then that people realized that we needed to carry arms to protect ourselves from these tyrants. The regime used to give orders to open fire on those people, and many of them became martyrs.
Whoever did not have money borrowed money… we are poor people. We had to borrow money to buy a rifle and bullets. This is how it started.
Every now and then we used to see an army vehicle. At first, we used to have pity on the Syrian army, saying that they were our children and we did not fire at them.
But at a certain point, the Syrian army itself helped Bashar al-Assad remain in his post. This was four years ago.

Till now, some members are defecting from the army but in small numbers.
If entire divisions and brigades defected, we would not have reached this point.
The members that did not defect from the army allowed Bashar al-Assad to remain in power until today. He also received foreign support from Satan’s party [Hezbollah] of Lebanon, from Iran, all the countries are supporting him. This really affected people, but we remained in our revolution. We started firing at the army and take its positions. We shall continue until the last moment (20:00)
(20:03) My son Ahmad, God bless you and your children, has been fighting with me for almost for two years, two-and-a-half years. I gave him guns and he started to fight with me. My younger son Mohammad kept saying, “Father I want to go with you; Father I want to go with you.” I brought him along, too. It was not a very long time ago. I taught him at first how to dissemble and reassemble a rifle, and then I taught him how to shoot. After that, he started to come with me to the front positions. This is as far as Mohammad is concerned. All is done for God’s sake. If God wills, we will stay on this path until the last drop of blood. We will not go back, for the sake martyrs we lost. We will continue if God wills, and the younger might join, too. If [the war] is going to last longer, the younger people will join.
My brothers, my cousins and I are continuing with this, God willing. I do not care anymore about education because we are losing so much important as loosing blood. Education is nothing when compared to blood. Education is necessary and we should learn and teach our children but we got to a point where the regime destroyed schools with explosive barrels. You will find only one safe school in the entire village; the other ones are completely destroyed (21:50)

(21:51) Mohammad is brave, with the will of God. I want him to continue in this revolution given our circumstances, God willing. (21:59) (22:00) For me, if Mohammad wanted to study, he would not have chosen to carry weapons and fight. I do not have any problem if he wished to remain in school. But, when he saw me fighting along with his brother, he insisted on joining me, so I brought him along. I hope I did not choose a wrong path for him. If he becomes a martyr, it would be for God’s sake, he would be lucky; God giveth, God taketh. I am convinced with what I am saying, this is not a compliment (22:35) (22:36) I am proud of him. He behaves like a man. Despite his young age, he acts like a man, thanks be to God. Some people told me that he is too young to join the war, but they were few. Others told me it is good that he started training at a young age, since the war might last for many years; the whole world is against Syria, especially against the Muslim, Sunni Syrian people. The whole world is against us. All nations are fighting like dogs against us.” (23:20)

(23:21) As for his mother, she did not have any problem at all. When she knew this is what he desired, she did not oppose him. - How does she feel when you both leave together for war? - Her heart aches, but thanks be to God she accepts this. We are believers. We believe in God almighty and in fate. What God has written shall happen. Let us suppose Mohammad or his brothers are at home now and warplanes bomb the house with barrels. If his days are over, he will die at home.”

Wide of fighters looking at a helicopter in the sky
Wide of fighters preparing lunch
Various of fighters eating
Medium of Mohammad opening a pack of dates
Various of fighters praying

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Mohammad, a Syrian Teenager Who "Chos...
Morek, Hama
By TTM Contributor 9
30 Jan 2015

Morek, Hama, Syria

January 30, 2015

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Khodr al-Hajji left school more than a year ago to fight against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Mohammad joined the opposition battalion formed by his father. He receives regular military training and has been positioned on the frontline outside the town of Morek near Hama, in an area called al-Sayyad. Opposition fighters took this area from the Syrian government’s forces fourth months ago. In a year or two, Mohammad hopes to actively engage in battles.

Mohammad’s case is not unique. Many children have been drawn into the Syrian conflict as it nears its fourth year. According to a Human Rights Watch report, non-state militias of different affiliations have recruited dozens of teenagers and given them perilous military tasks.

Khodr, Mohammad's father, says that even though his son is young, he might not be safer at home because he could die in an airstrike.

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Various of fighters resting inside a cave
Close-up of Mohammad al-Hajji’s face
Close-up of Mohammad al-Hajji’s hand and Kalashnikov rifle
Wide of Mohammad al-Hajji walking ,carrying a Kalashnikov rifle

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Boy) Mohammad Khodr al-Hajji, Syrian Child Fighter
00:11 – 00:24

“I am Mohammad, the son of Khodr. I was at school and I was watching TV. I saw destruction and children. I went for the quest of freedom, against Assad’s infidel regime.” Wide of Mohammad walking with other fighters.
Wide of Mohammad with other fighters in a trench shooting.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Boy) Mohammad Khodr al-Hajji, Syrian Child Fighter

00:33 – 00:48
“I have been here for a short while, but my father taught me how to use weapons and to shoot, thanks be to God. I was with my friends and I saw that they all participated in Jihad, and I wanted to be like them.
I have not been in school for many years. I was in the eighth grade. I stopped going to school.
There was an air raid. A warplane hit the school and we stopped going there.
When I first grabbed the rifle I felt something very great.
There is no work. People have stopped working. We want to work but there is nothing to do.
I kept participating in the revolution. I will keep resisting until I die.
I am still young and I am learning. In a year or two, I will start participating in battles, God willing.”

Close-up of Mohammad cleaning rifle.
Wide of Mohammad in trench with other fighters.
Various of Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s father , talking on walkie-talkie Medium of Khodr al-Hajji inside cave with other fighters

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s Father, Head of opposition armed group

01:33 – 01:59
"He [Mohammad] saw that his brother and I were involved [in the revolution]. He began to insist to accompany me, so I took him with me. His brother and I trained him to use a rifle. I showed him how to disassemble and reassemble the rifle. Then he wanted to shoot, so I showed how.
We shall carry on, God willing. Someone younger might also participate [in the fighting]. If this continues for longer, God willing, the younger people will participate.”

Wide of Mohammad opening a box of dates with a knife

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s Father, Head of opposition armed group

02:08 – 02:28
“I do not care about education because we are losing so much blood. If he is martyred, it will be for God’s sake. He would be lucky. God giveth, God taketh. My son Mohammad or his brothers might be at home and suffer a strike by warplanes, which are dropping explosive barrels. If his days are over, he will die at home.”

Various of Mohammad and other fighters praying behind Khodr al-Hajji.
Various of Mohammad and other fighters walking

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Syrian Presidential Election in Photos
Syria, Hama
By TTM Contributor 4
03 Jun 2014

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in the Directory of Education, Hama.

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Syrian Presidential Election in Photos
By TTM Contributor 4
03 Jun 2014

A huge crowd waits to vote at the Directorate of Agriculture in Hama.

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Syrians in Opposition-Held Rural Hama...
Rural Hama, Syria
By TTM Contributor 3
30 May 2014

May 30, 2014
Rural Hama Province, Syria

Two opposition fighters and a civilian in rebel-held rural Hama give their views of the Syrian presidential election.

Abu Mohamad (Opposition Islamist Fighter):

"We hear nothing about the election; Bashar al-Assad and his regime don’t exist to us. Here in the province of Hama we don’t have elections, we are completely boycotting the election, voting in Hama is completely banned."

Interviewer:
What do you think of democracy and the election?

Abu Mohamad:

"Democracy is absolutely forbidden here, we go by the Sunni method only. [There is] no democracy [here] to allow women to dress the way they want or to have Alawites, Shia and Druze contributing in making decisions in the government. That is completely forbidden in the Islamic Caliphate and the will of God (insha'Allah). Every person who tries to participate in the election will be strictly punished. We made some decisions a few days ago about this matter and those decisions are valid in Idlib and here in Hama."

Interviewer:
Do you know who the presidential candidates are?

Abu Mohamad:
"I don't know anything."

Interviewer:
You haven’t heard of any of them?

Abu Mohamad:
"No I haven’t heard of any candidate or president. We are fighters in the name of God, we have no election here, these are all liberated areas. Look around you, the situation is good and stable."

Abu Jihad (Opposition Islamist Fighter):

"There are no elections in the east side of rural Hama or all of rural Hama. Those pigs in the center of Hama, the regime are forcing people to vote. The regime is pressuring people to vote, they are threatening them, either they vote or get killed or go to jail, especially in the city. The inhabitants of the city are forced to vote. We don’t care about what they are doing. Here in rural Hama we don’t follow any government or anything, all we are looking for is to take down the regime and establish an Islamic Caliphate. We don’t care about a constitution or law, the Quran is our constitution and nothing else."

Ibrahim (Civilian):

"We heard about the election from the media and news, but Syria is known, and all Arab countries are known for not having democracy. Even the recent generation has the wrong idea about democracy because they have only experienced it through the deformed Arab nations. They [the Syrian government] should stop lying to people and pretending to apply real democracy through these elections, this is not democracy. Arab populations are weak and lacking direction and the west gets what they want by exploiting this."

"The revolution in the east of rural Hama is very strong, battles are everywhere and we are sure to win. May god help the fighters, we hope to see thugs [Syrian Government] lose. If we keep going at this pace, in 4-5 months we won’t have anymore thugs in Hama."

"The result of the election is guaranteed and known, and whoever goes to vote is just trying to show support for Bashar al-Assad. We will never participated in elections, not before the revolution and not after."

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The Unfortunate Displacement of Refug...
Salamiyah, Syria
By Fady
06 Apr 2013

Since the start of the Syrian clashes, a large number of Syrians have migrated to the city of Al Salmiya, which is located 30 kilometers to the west of the city of Hama. The city of Al Salmiya is considered the capital of the Ismaili sect and therefore is of large importance to Syria and the region.

In the wake of the explosion that targeted the headquarters of the People’s Committee at the end of January and the initial wave of refugees coming from both Hama and Homs, the security in Al Salmiya was tightened. This resulted in further unrest, including the abuse of the refugee population and the destruction of their housing.

Transcription:

00 :02 If we want to discuss the process of displacement to Salameyah, we have to dissect it into two different segments. The first is prior to the bombing that occurred two months ago in the city. The other segment discusses what happened post bombing.

00 :17 The city is hosting approximately 50,000 to 60,000 refugees. As a result, from the influx of refugees, the economy has flourished. The shopkeepers have benefited in a noticeable manner, trade volume has increased, and stores that are in key markets witnessed better work.

00 :35 The first major influx of refugees arrived in Al Salamiyah from Hama. Entire families moved to the area, most of them being women and children. The offensive on Homs brought another wave of refugees to Al Salamiyah larger than that, that came from Hama. After which, the bombing of the People's Committee occurred.

00 :51 The People’s Committee increased it security measures after the bomb detonation. Al Salamiya locals started going to the houses of the refugees, especially to tenants, and beat up some of the masses. They tortured the men and threatened their women and children. They claimed they want to beat and kill them. Furthermore, they shredded their rent contracts so that they no longer have alibis to stay, resulting in the refugees leaving the city of Al Salameyah due to fear and intimidation.

01 :17 The site of the bombings are these residential buildings and the headquarters of the people’s committee that was bombed. Also, this is the house of the head of the area.

01 :36 and this is the sign of the party again (inaudible)

01 :42 It was obvious that the refugees were kicked out due to, both, a security and military decision from the government. The tool to execute it was by the use of the thugs i.e the people’s committee. How ? By pressuring them, by attacking their homes and harassing them on the streets. They would take someones identification card and ask him, "you are from Homs. Whats brings you here?"

02 :00 My siblings were in Al Salamiya, so I moved to the area.

02 :06 I left Homs at the time that the big strike happened

02 : 12 In regards to the bombing that happened here in Al Salamiya, it instilled fear in people. We started hearing people say that they are going to kick us out and to be careful. As a result of that, we did not dare to go out even if we were short on bread. We were afraid to go out and buy bread.

02 :31 These are my kids, and there are my brother's children and the children of my other brother. We guided them to start working. My son who is in sixth grade is working for 100 Syrian pounds in order to finance himself.

02 :46 The refugees have nothing to do with this. We are sheltering women and children, they believed that we are sheltering the women and children of the men that are fighting outside.

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Syria Jihadists 05
Suruc
By Maciej Moskwa
14 Mar 2013

Syria, Hama province, Kaalat Madiq March 2013. Second anniversary of Syrian Revolution. After prayings people gathered in front of mosque. Some of them bring flags of Nusra front and Ahrar Al Sham banners. Photo: Maciej Moskwa/TESTIGO

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Syria Jihadists 06
Suruc
By Maciej Moskwa
14 Mar 2013

Syria, Hama province, Kaalat Madiq. Second anniversary of Syrian Revolution. After prayings people gathered in front of mosque. Some of them bring flags of Nusra front and Ahrar Al Sham banners. Photo: Maciej Moskwa/TESTIGO