For Cries From Syria, a riveting new documentary on the Syrian conflict now available on HBO, Evgeny Afineevsky collected never-before-seen video clips from activists, civilians, and rebel forces and interviewed the people present. The result is intense, chilling, and intimate: We see infants dying from chemical attacks perpetrated by the Bashar al-Assad regime; listen to six-year-old orphans discuss what it was like not to eat; and hear others explain why they were so desperate to flee Isis and make it to Europe.
“I think a lot of people still lack knowledge about Syria, the beginning of the revolution, about what brought such a huge refugee crisis that we as a world haven’t experienced since the Second World War,” Afineevsky said in a recent Charlie Rose interview.
The film argues that while the international community may be fatigued by this conflict, the sheer horror of the human rights abuses means they can’t afford to be. This film puts those abuses, unfiltered, on the big screen. The result is, as you may expect, shocking.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad brazenly tortures children.
During the Arab Spring, as Syrians patiently waited for their turn at revolution, children in the town of Daraa wrote on the walls of their school, “It’s your turn doctor,” suggesting Al-Assad, who was trained in ophthalmology, would be the next Arab leader to be overthrown. Al-Assad didn’t take these comments well, and took the children into custody. Through videos, photos, and interviews, we see how they were tortured, and killed, before the bodies were eventually returned to their parents.
Men, women, and children being gassed on the regular.
If you had questions that Al-Assad was deploying chemical weapons on his people, the film puts this subject to rest and offers clear video evidence of infants and children dying from these attacks. In addition to the video evidence, the filmmakers cite 100 documented cases in which al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, and interview a former military commander who confirms the extent of these atrocities.
Syrians who speak out on any issue are considered rebels, and often killed.
We watch as peaceful individuals who speak out against the torture of children, the murder of average citizens, and the starvation caused by government blockades, are treated as rebels that need to be exterminated. As Abdul Baset Al-Sarout, a soccer player from the Syrian national team, who became an icon of the resistance explains in the film: “War was never our choice, we were forced into war.”
Russia’s support of the Al-Assad regime has made the civilian attacks even more deadly.
Although Russia and the Al-Assad regime claim to be fighting back against Isis, Syrian journalists interviewed in the film say that Russia’s military support of the Al-Assad regime has just made the government more effective at targeting its own citizens, with air raids and bigger and more strategic bomb blasts.
The lives of refugees.
The film features interviews with refugees telling stories of being smuggled on overloaded boats, being shot at by the Turkish army, and now living in parks and eating out of garbage cans in Europe. Although the geopolitics are incredibly complicated, the suffering of these individuals proves the international community has not done enough to help.