Part 1 - Authoritarianism
Ilyas, a dentist from rural Hama: "Syria had the appearance of being a stable country, but in my opinion it wasn't real stability. It was a state of terror. Nobody trusted anyone else; don't talk, the walls have ears. If anyone said anything out of the ordinary, others would suspect that he was a government informant, just trying to test people's reactions, and gather a sense of what was going on. It was a régime based on command and obedience, every state institution recreated the same kind of power. The President had absolute power in the country. The principal of a school had absolute power in the school. At the same time, the principal is terrified. Of whom? Of the janitor sweeping the floor, they are all government informants."
Ayham, a web developer from Damascus: "The brainwashing process starts when you go to school. We love the leader, we love the régime, without them the country will collapse. You grow up with that in the back of your head, constantly reminding you that we are living thanks to the grace of the Assad family. But even as an innocent child, you see that the whole system just reeked. It fed on corruption and grew. If you want to get a passport, you have to bribe this guy, and that guy, and kiss that guy's ass. From when you're little, you're taught that this is the only way to survive in this country. As an active member of the ruling party, you're going to get better grades, better chances for better schools or jobs, everything is handled by how loyal you are to the régime. So you are raised on the principle that you have to show your loyalty."
Part 3 - Revolution
Shireen, a mother from Aleppo: "Oppression was residing in us. It was part of our life, like air, sun, water; we didn't even feel it. Like air is there, and you never ask, 'Where is the air?' But then, in one second, in one shout, in one voice, you blow it up. You defy it, and stand in front of death. You have an inheritance, and after thirty years you slam it on the ground and shatter it. Don't even imagine that it was easy to go out to a demonstration. No amount of courage allows you to stand there and watch someone who has a gun and is about to kill you. But still this incredible oppression made us go out. I encouraged my nieces and nephews to come with me to demonstrations. I felt that if they didn't try that experience, they'd be missing the real meaning of life. When you chant, you shudder, your body rises, and everything you imagined just comes out. Tears come down, tears of joy, because I broke the barrier. I am not afraid. I am a free being. Sadness and happiness and fear and courage, they are all mixed together in that voice, and it comes out strong."
Rima, a writer from Sweida: "I was in the demonstration, and I started to whisper, 'Freedom,' and then I started to hear myself repeating, 'Freedom, freedom, freedom,' and then I started shouting, 'Freedom!' I thought, this is the first time I have ever heard my own voice. And I told myself, that I would never let anyone steal my voice again."
Part 4 - Militarisation
Captain, a fighter with the Free Syrian Army from Aleppo: "When demonstrations began, security force came. We agreed, that if they were going to shoot bullets, then we needed weapons too. We were only chanting in the streets. We could have chanted for the rest of our lives without anyone even paying attention to us. But when the régime started attacking us, a lot of people who were on the sidelines started to join and protest too. Because of the blood. Blood is what moves people. Blood is the force of the revolution."
Abu Firas, a fighter from Idlib: "At first, one or two people were killed. Then 20. Then it became normal. If we lost 50 people, we'd say, 'Thank God it's only 50.' It's been so long since I heard that someone died of natural causes."
Part 7 - Flight
Talia, future TV correspondent: "The night before I left, was the longest night of my life. I was alone with the kids, and the planes were in the sky all night. The sound of planes is scarier than the sound of barrel bombs, because you hear them and wonder when the bombs will drop. The waiting is harder than the actual attack. I didn't know if we'd leave the next day, or if this would be the night that we died. I had seen children torn in pieces before, but I wasn't strong enough to see my kids in that state. I needed to get them to safety. The kids woke up, and I got them dressed. I got two pieces of paper, and wrote our names and phone numbers, and put them in their pockets. That way, if someone got killed, people would know their identities. I waited for the driver outside. I kissed the walls on the street, because I knew that I was never coming back to them."
Part 8 - Reflections
Adam, a media organiser from Lattakia: "One of the most profound things that I've learned from this experience, is that the process of finding out what a country needs is never clean. Of course, when you're in a stable country, with functioning institutions, it's easy to have a moral code. But these values are only possible, because other people did dirty things to put that system in place. We opened a Pandora's Box. We had this innocent childlike interest to see what is inside the box. We thought we'd get a present, and what we got was all the evil in the world. Now we need to close the box again, but it's going to take a while. Now I'm working with an NGO, that helps the free media inside Syria. I see my job as trying to support people who want to make their dreams come true. But I'm too old to dream now, in a month and a half, I'll be 29."