"I always dreamed of becoming a journalist. My parents supported me in whatever decision I would make, but with this one, they would say, ‘Don’t do this. You can’t do this.’ My parents — my father especially — would tell me that it is impossible to be a journalist in Syria, and that I would get sent to prison.
Suddenly, in 2011, the revolution started. I wanted to be a part of this change. So, I started filming the protests at Aleppo University with my phone.
From the early days of the revolution, all of the official news channels were saying that nothing was happening, that Syria was a very good country with democracy and freedom. The régime was not allowing any foreign journalists inside the country in the first year to cover the protests. We hadn’t seen anything like this before, so I felt like it was our role to show the world what was happening. I wanted evidence, and I felt that film is a way to really transfer the reality of what was happening to others.
I was always at the hospital with my camera turned on, filming my friends fighting or laughing or just whatever was happening. Suddenly, we lost one of our friends from this group. I felt that the fact I recorded all of these moments with people I could lose at any time was one of the most amazing things I could do in my life. Since then, I decided to record everything, because one day I may be the one who is killed.
It was also really important to me to record the reality of life under the régime — what our dreams were and how we ended up in all this violence. It is a record for the future that is outside the régime propaganda and misinformation.
The camera became a part of me. It was something that supported me and helped me feel strong even when I felt scared.
People in Syria had to deal with these things whether we had the strength or not. There was no choice. I wanted the film to be delivered to people just like the war came to us, while being respectful of the dead and their families.
People around the world — even us sometimes — start to see the dead as just numbers. It is different when you see death up close. The solution isn’t to not watch, but in how we react to it.
The régime is trying to kill our hope. I really believe that we would not be able to survive without hope.
There was one guy who would deliver flowers — he helped set up the garden on our porch in Aleppo. I filmed him because I wanted to record the hope and beauty of how he continued to do his job despite the siege. He ended up getting killed. When you are really desperate and can’t see anything good, something beautiful comes your way, and that gives you hope.
Tthe chronology of the film jumping around shows how any human being can live his life after having these experiences. In each moment — no matter how dark — I always remember the good things. And from the good things, I always come back to some really difficult moments. So, it is exactly how my mind would work.
Some journalists come for one or two months or one year and then leave. I grew up with these people, and we lived together through the siege for five years. My neighbors were used to seeing me with my camera, and I was also living in the hospital. We faced the same threats together and shared all the good and bad things as a family. This made people feel comfortable around me with a camera.
My daughter Samahas of course seen the film. It has been two years of me working on the film on my laptop. She gets very excited when she sees herself on the screen and shouts her name. We are trying to make sure she remembers where she comes from. When we ask her where she is from, she will say, ‘Syria, Aleppo.’
Home will always be Aleppo and Syria. We are trying to lead a normal life in London, but at any moment we could return to Syria. People always ask me why I stayed in Syria even though there was so much suffering and war. Even though we could have been killed, we were happy to stay because we were fighting for our land, our freedom. When we lost Aleppo, we thought we lost everything. But we do find new hope.
This morning my father called me early because he wasn’t aware of the time difference. When I told him the time, he asked me why I was checking my phone so early. I laughed and said I am always checking the news to see if the régime has fallen. Then my mom shouted from the other side of the room, ‘don’t worry, if the régime falls, we will call you.’ "