I was asked to write this piece in November 2013, immediately after I left Syria (and unfortunately that was the last time I have been there). I am not a fan of self-referential journalism and I think the less we talk about ourselves the better it is, unless it is functional to understanding our interaction with the context and the way locals react to our (Western) presence. Still, I accepted to write this and I think there are some insights into freelance labor and all the troubles you face to “get the story out” at your own risk…
(In the photo: Me (right) and Abu Wa’el (left), the commander of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Dir’ul-Muslimin (The Shield of Muslims) brigade in Ras al-‘Ayn (al-Hasakah, Syria)) (photo by Bahzad Hajj Hamo)
The challenges of covering Syria
BEIRUT — Reporting from Syria has become an ordeal of illegal border crossings, where journalists face all sorts of restrictions from both the Syrian government and neighboring countries.
I started covering Syria from Damascus at the very beginning of the uprising in March 2011. I didn’t apply for a press visa, as it would have just meant further restrictions on my movements by security forces. During my five-month stay, I reported on demonstrations, circumventing the regime’s checkpoints, driven around by an aging taxi driver sympathetic to the opposition.