Teen’s message to world in war selfies
TEENAGERS posting videos of themselves on social media is nothing out of the ordinary.
But when you're a 15-year-old boy sharing and commenting on the scenes of wreckage from your home in war-torn Eastern Ghouta, Syria, words like 'extraordinary' and 'devastating' don't begin to cover it.
On December 8 last year, Muhammad Najem posted his first video to Twitter, with a Syrian scarf draped around his neck.
"I will convey to you all the evil which is being committed by the Assad regime in the Eastern Ghouta through my own social media Facebook and Twitter," he says to the camera.
What followed was a series of photos and videos depicting chaos, destruction and suffering as air strikes devastated the area.
The authenticity of these posts has not been verified.
In one video, Muhammad stands on a rooftop speaking into the camera, but his voice is quickly drowned out by the sound of aircraft bombs and rockets falling from the sky.
#Listen and watch this terrible video During the #bombing of the #eastern #Assad al-Ghouta by air Aircraft fall bombs and rockets from the #sky#BreakGhoutaSiegehttps://t.co/wlEyqRTFaf pic.twitter.com/t743NS9l9a— muhammad najem (@muhammadnajem20) December 29, 2017
In another, he stares silently into the camera as thick clouds of smoke waft up in the background. The sound of sirens and children crying can be heard.
In a third video, bombs go off like thunder as he narrates from a rooftop. "The sounds you can hear now are the bombing of the Assad regime on Ghouta, harming people," Muhammad says.
He sometimes posts selfies capturing the devastation in the background, documenting the death and destruction of his family and friends at the hands of the Assad regime.
Muhammad himself says he lost his home and members of his family. He told British website inews his father - who built their house "with hard work and the sweat of his forehead" - was killed two years ago after a shell hit the mosque he was praying in.
He said his school and playground had also been completely destroyed.
These are some of the pic of my school that I was learning that were destroyed by warplanes. There are also many schools that were totally destroyed in the Ghouta and now the children of al-Ghouta without education for an unknown reason. why the Assad destroyed our school 's .😢 pic.twitter.com/yerkXVghTk— muhammad najem (@muhammadnajem20) February 15, 2018
I'm like any kid in al-Ghouta. Instead of going to school, I go to buy some wood for my mother to cook our lunch. I hope the war ends and we can all go back to school. 😀🙋♂️#saveghouta pic.twitter.com/pndjdeQbD7— muhammad najem (@muhammadnajem20) February 13, 2018
Other posts on his page are pictures of victims - friends of his who were killed, babies being amputated and pale, malnourished children no older than two or three.
Through his social media channels, he has called for a ceasefire of the Assad- and Russia-backed military campaign. At the same time, he begs the international community for help.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN GHOUTA?
Ghouta is the name given to the suburbs around Damascus, the Syrian capital. Its residents were among the first to protest President Bashar al-Assad's rule in 2011, as part of the Arab Spring.
Eastern Ghouta is now one of the last rebel-held enclaves bordering Damascus, and Syria's government and its allies are slamming it with air raids in an effort to remove the rebels.
Bombings, starvation, death and severe injuries are omnipresent in the disturbing photos and footage being shared online.
Last week on February 19, the Assad campaign launched one of the bloodiest bombing campaigns in the area that the country has seen in the past three years. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, it was the highest 48-hour death toll in the conflict in five years.
The next day, UNICEF issued a statement which simply said "No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones", followed by blank space.
According to the UN, there are 393,000 people currently trapped in Eastern Ghouta.
The government has carried out more than 1290 air strikes and fired 6190 rockets and shells since mid-November last year, the BBC reported.
They estimate that more than 1070 civilians have been killed, and 3900 injured.
Mr Assad wants the complete recapture of all parts of Syria and the restoration of his government's rule.
His strongest ally is Russia, which sent its air force to help him in 2015. Mr Assad is also backed by Iran and allied militias, such as Hezbollah from Lebanon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a daily five-hour pause in the region - effective from today - to create a "humanitarian corridor" that allows citizens to leave.
According to Al Jazeera, the pro-government alliance has been "unable to take any inch of territory in Ghouta" since the offensive began.
Muhammad has described the atrocities as "genocide" in his social media videos, and he remains determined to show the world the impact the regime is having on his home.
He repeatedly calls to the international community for help. "We know that you get bored from our blood pictures," he says into the camera in one video. "We know you have seen videos how they kill us. But we will continue appealing to you."
- with Reuters