Syria Undercover

November 8, 2011

Reporter Ramita Navai goes undercover for a rare look at the uprising from inside Syria. Plus a profile of the dictator who has managed to hold on longer than any amidst the Arab unrest—President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria UndercoverFRONTLINE takes a rare look at the uprising from inside Syria.
The RegimeHow Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad has managed to hold onto power for so long



Syrian President Warns Against Western Intervention

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned this weekend that a Libyan-style Western intervention against his regime will lead to a regional crisis.

Syria Two Years Later: Bloody Civil War With No End In Sight

The Syrian revolution started two years ago today in Dara’a, a small farming town 60 miles south of Damascus. But what began as peaceful protests has grown into a bloody civil war with no end in sight.

What’s Known about Syria’s “Murky” Opposition

What began as a street uprising among united, angry Syrians has become a sprawling, scattered opposition force trying to bring down the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Troubled History of Hama, Syria

The Syrian government has cut off U.N. observers from accessing the site of a reported mass killing that took place yesterday in a village outside Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city, where 30 years ago then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad launched what’s known as one of the bloodiest chapters of modern Arab history.

Blast in Hama, Opposition Stronghold, Disrupts Fragile Syrian Ceasefire

An explosion ripped through a poor neighborhood in the opposition stronghold of Hama this morning, disrupting the fragile Syrian ceasefire agreement brokered by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan last month.

Will Syrian Truce Hold?

Despite apprehensions in the lead-up to yesterday’s deadline, a tenuous ceasefire agreement brokered by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan took effect in Syria this morning.

“Syrian Society Is Beginning to Fall Apart”

Neighbors are turning on their neighbors, according to new accounts by refugees who have escaped Syria’s bloody conflict for eastern Lebanon.

With Russian Support, U.N. Security Council Adopts Watered-Down Statement on Syria

After months of diplomatic stalemate resulting from the the objections of Russia and China, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a statement on the crisis in Syria today.

Syrian Opposition Accused of Serious Human Rights Abuses

Against the backdrop of the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown, the tactics of the country’s armed opposition groups have received considerably less scrutiny.

Syria One Year Later: Growing Evidence of Torture, Detainee Abuse

Bisat al-rih is Arabic for “flying carpet,” but for those detained by the Syrian regime, it can mean being blindfolded, stripped down to the underpants and strapped to a foldable wooden board.

Rare Video Evidence of Torture in Syrian Hospitals

Last night Channel 4 aired chilling footage of evidence of what appears to be the torture of injured Syrian civilians in a military hospital in Homs.

One Woman’s Proposal to Halt the Violence in Syria

Over the past few months, one woman has driven the debate over whether and how the international community should intervene in the Syrian crisis.

Why Hasn’t Syria’s Assad Been Labeled A War Criminal?

Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad could fit the category of a war criminal, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday. But officially designating him one, she added, could “complicate” options for persuading him to step down from power.

What Is Al Qaeda Doing in Syria?

Yesterday, Iraqi forces arrested the head of Ansar al-Sunna, an Iraqi insurgent group Iraqi leaders say has links with Al Qaeda, as he tried to enter the country through its border with Syria.

U.N. Report Accuses Syria of Crimes Against Humanity

The Syrian state has committed “gross human right violations” amounting to crimes against humanity a panel of independent U.N. investigators concluded in a 72-page report released today.

How Has Syria’s Assad Managed to Hold Power for So Long?

Eleven months into a violent uprising that has taken the lives of more than 5,400 Syrians, how has President Bashar al-Assad managed to hold onto power while his counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were toppled?

Violence Intensifies in Homs after U.N. Resolution on Syria Fails

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the 11-month-long crisis in Syria have stalled after a resolution condemning the regime’s crackdown on protesters failed in the United Nations Security Council on Saturday.

On 30th Anniversary of Hama Massacre, Syrian Troops Lock Down City

Thirty years ago today, the regime of then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad launched what’s known as one of the bloodiest chapters of modern Arab history: the Hama Massacre.

High-Stakes Showdown Over Syria at the U.N.

The fight to end the Syrian government’s brutal 10-month crackdown moves to the United Nations today.

Syria: “We No Longer Want Arab Solutions to the Crisis”

Calling it a “conspiratorial scheme” hatched against the country, the Syrian government rejected an Arab League peace plan yesterday proposing that embattled President Bashar al-Assad cede power.

Syria’s Assad Denies Knowledge of Slain Singer

In his first interview with an American journalist since the uprising broke out, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied he’d ever heard of a popular anti-regime singer whose body — sans vocal cords — was found in a river last July.

Pressure Mounts on Syria as U.N. Calls for Action to Prevent Civil War

Today U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for international intervention to protect Syrians from the government’s brutal nine-month crackdown, which the organization estimates has now killed more than 4,000 civilians, including 307 children.

UPDATED: A Guide to Sanctions on Syria

Turkey, one of Syria’s top trading partners, announced wide-ranging sanctions against its neighbor today. But it’s not just Turkey: Below is a round-up of the various sanctions issued against theincreasingly isolated nation.

Syria More Isolated Than Ever as Arab League Suspension Takes Effect

The Arab League formalized Syria’s suspension from the 22-member organization yesterday and threatened to impose economic sanctions if the government did … Continue reading

Syria Calls Arab League Suspension “Extremely Dangerous Step”

Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem called the Arab League’s vote on Satuday to suspend Syria’s membership in the 22-nation organization “an extremely dangerous step” and announced that the government has taken actions to comply with the terms of a peace plan proposed by the league. His statement comes as international pressure on the Syrian regime mounts.

Report: Violence in Syria Amounts to Crimes Against Humanity

Human Rights Watch called on the Arab League today to suspend Syria’s membership and to support a move by the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Q&A: A Closer Look at Syria’s Fragmented Opposition

The disparate opposition groups that have materialized during the eight months of Syria’s uprising have been criticized as fragmented, disorganized and lacking a clear vision for the country. And recent evidence of growing schisms within the movement have only raised doubts.

“If We Didn’t Shoot at Protesters, They Would Shoot Us.”

“If we didn’t shoot at protesters, they would shoot us,” a Syrian Army defector told FRONTLINE reporter Ramita Navai. “I saw with my own eyes when my friend beside me refused to shoot at the protesters. A sniper shot him in the head.”

Live Chat 1 p.m. ET: Inside the Struggle for Syria

Read the full transcript of our live chat with “Syria Undercover” correspondent Ramita Navai, New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, and Foreign Policy’s David Kenner.

How the World Stacks Up on Syria

As the international community mulls how to respond to the crisis in Syria, it faces a complex and changing web of geopolitical alliances, heated rivalries and strategic interests. Here’s a closer look at the key international players.

Syria’s Secretive Ruling Minority Sect

Because their secret tenets and practices are known only to the few males deemed worthy to undergo instruction, the Alawites, Syria’s long-persecuted minority sect, remain a mystery to most.

Exiled Dissident Ausama Monajed: “The End of the Regime Is Very Close”

As a student in Syria under the Assad regime, Ausama Monajed was arrested and interrogated by security forces several times. The last time he was detained was in 2004, at which point he says he had no choice but to leave the country.

Joshua Landis: “I Don’t See Light at the End of the Tunnel.”

The director of the Center for Middle East Studies and an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, Joshua Landis writes an influential blog called Syria Comment. He warns there is a very high potential that Syria’s uprising “will turn into a very dark and tough ethnic sectarian fight, the way it did in Lebanon and Iraq.”

Anthony Shadid: Time Is Running Out for a Better Future for Syria

“We’re seeing a government that relies almost solely on repression to keep itself in power,” The New York Times’ Beirut bureau chief tells FRONTLINE.

“Gutsy Reporting Takes Viewers Right to the Edge of the Danger Zone”

Calling it a chilling “you-are-almost-there primer on the Syrian uprising,” Newsday’s Verne Gay gives FRONTLINE’s two-part Syria special airing tonight an “A.”

Inside the Underground Lives of Syrian Activists

Reporter Ramita Navai, who spent two weeks undercover with Syrian activists in September, at one point found herself trapped in a safe house for 72 hours while militias loyal to the government raided the house next door.

Syria Agrees to Cease-Fire Proposal

But the announcement has been greeted with skepticism and reports of new violence.

Syrian President Warns Against Western Intervention

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned this weekend that a Libyan-style Western intervention against his regime will lead to a regional crisis.

“Wherever We Went We Heard Stories of People Being Arrested and Tortured”

FRONTLINE reporter Ramita Navai talked to Lisa Mullins of The World this morning about the secret hospitals Syrian activists have … Continue reading

Syrian Activists Run Secret Hospitals to Avoid Brutal Gov’t Crackdown

In a bid to crush the mass demonstrations that broke out in March, Syrian authorities have turned government-run hospitals and … Continue reading


50:01The Battle for Syria09/18/2012
54:11Escaping ISIS07/14/2015
blog comments powered by Disqus


Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, the Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.

Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.