Slideshow: Syria on Both Sides of the Line

Slide 1

For generations, the Alawites of the Orontes River valley lived peacefully with neighboring Sunnis. But as the revolution entered its second year, divisions arose. This photo is looking south down the valley, and the mountains to the right are mainly Alawite territory, while rebels from the Free Syrian Army hold the Sunni villages on the other side. To film this, I'm standing on the precise spot where an improvised explosive device (IED) had detonated only days before. It was planted by Sunni rebels to try and target regime loyalists. No one was injured.

Slide 2

Every Friday, many Sunni villages hold demonstrations against the regime. Here, I'm filming at one demonstration in the village of Kansafra. A man is holding up his son whose sign reads "I'm a terrorist." President Assad has consistently justified his brutal crackdown of a once-peaceful uprising by insisting that all of the demonstrators are terrorists and "armed gangs." The man is using his son to try and point out the absurdity of the charge.

Slide 3

Rebel soldiers had taken over this school in a village in northern Syria where I had to hole up briefly while waiting for safe transport further into the country. The classrooms had become dormitories and the rebels used the nails above the blackboard to hang their weapons.

Slide 4

In rebel-held areas, months of fierce fighting is clearly changing the nature of the community. Most men under 30 carry weapons and have begun growing beards to emulate Islamic fighters. Even the children are picking up on the military feel of the place. Many have fashioned their own weapons from wood, plastic and string.

Slide 5

I'd arrived in Hwash, a poor, rural village to interview some rebel activists, but was interrupted by a man who asked casually if I "wanted to film the bodies." Less than an hour before my arrival, a regime mortar had killed these three people, a woman and her two daughters, as they shelled corn outside their house. Their bodies had been brought here to the mosque to be prepared for burial. Two men had also been killed in the same attack and, as is customary, their bodies were being prepared at a different mosque.

Slide 6

In Hwash, a young boy digs in a crater to find shrapnel from the government mortar that killed the mother and her two children from the previous photo.

Slide 7

Less than an hour after the attack, men prepared graves for the five victims in Hwash.

Slide 8

You cannot enter or leave the headquarters of the local rebel Free Syrian Army without wiping your foot on a picture of President Bashar al-Assad -- a major insult in the Arab world.

Slide 9

Nine months ago, 20-year-old Ahmad defected from the regime police force to join the Free Syrian Army. "I looked evil when I was serving the regime," he told me about the first photo. "This is the real me," he said of the second photo, taken after he joined the FSA.

Slide 10

While in the Alawite village of Aziziya, I was keen to film at the local high school. My camera seemed to prompt a sudden pro-Assad demonstration, with Alawite children lining up to shout and chant their loyalty to President Assad and the regime. Here they are chanting: "It is written on the gun: Bashar is a sacred leader."

Slide 11

This young regime soldier never gave me his name. He is manning one of the positions at the regime checkpoint at Aziziya, looking directly across the valley which is now no man's land.

Slide 12

While filming at the regime base at Aziziya, a full rainbow suddenly appeared across the Orontes River valley. It was an extraordinary moment, and the soldiers marveled at it.

Slide 13

This is Lt. Ali Ghazi, a young Alawite soldier who is serving in President Bashar al-Assad's army. He's standing in an army checkpoint, looking directly across the Orontes River valley towards rebel-held areas in Jebel Azawiya. Rebel soldiers are less than a mile away. Behind him is a picture of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father. "My soldiers put this on the wall, not me," he was at pains to point out.

Slide 14

The regime base at Aziziya. It's a grim life for regime soldiers. The pictures on the left are of Bashar al-Assad and his brother, Maher - the latter is a little seen but very powerful figure. He's known to command the 4th division of the Syrian Army, notorious for its discipline and ruthlessness.

Slide 15

In the heart of Damascus, these two converted Humvees obviously belong to a regime loyalist. They are festooned with images of the Syrian flag, as well as pictures of Bashar al-Assad. Just taking this picture raised suspicions: Minutes later, I was questioned by a plain-clothed regime loyalist.

Slide 16

This is an image that really haunts me. About two minutes after a massive air strike on the village of al-Bara, this woman is casually walking away from the scene, pushing a pram. Behind her, many people have been killed and injured, yet she seems somehow familiar with it all.

Slide 17

This young boy is hysterical with grief after the bombing in al-Bara. His grandparents are buried under rubble, and his uncle has just been killed. For minutes, he stood by the side of the road, inconsolable. He is shouting: "My grandparents have been fleeing the shelling every day." Watch more of his ordeal.

Slide 18

This man is incredibly lucky to be alive. When I arrived on the scene of the air strike on al-Bara, he was up to his waist in mud and rubble. A huge rock was lodged against his back, and a thick electricity cable appeared to be wrapped around his waist.

Slide 19

It took about 20 minutes to dig the man out of the rubble after the air strike on al-Bara. Here, he is being carried to a waiting ambulance. All the men are shouting "Allah Akhbar", "God is Great!" You can see Ahmad, the young rebel fighter, near the far left.

Slide 20

As the reality of the air strike on al-Bara became clear, women gathered in the street to express their shock and grief. These women are dumbfounded to realize that they have fled shelling from other areas of Syria, only to witness something like this. They're standing about 20 meters from where one of the air strikes hit.

Slide 21

In the aftermath of the air strike on al-Bara, this woman cut a curious figure, standing holding a high-velocity machine gun. It turned out she was just holding it briefly for a young soldier. She was also trying to warn me that I was standing right next to a live electricity cable. Minutes later, men behind me urged her to address me and the camera, and talk about the lives lost in the air strike. No one on either side wanted to miss an opportunity to discredit the other.

Slide 22

While waiting for access to Alawite villages in the north of Syria, the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus was my home. Standing here I could hear shelling of the Damascus suburbs in the background, yet life here seemed to go on as if nothing was happening. The hotel was mainly catering to UN staff and a handful of journalists. Pictures of Bashar al-Assad are everywhere.

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