The Syrian teenager using social media to share Eastern Ghouta’s horrors

Syrian teenager Muhammed Najem is using social media to tell the world how civilians are battling to survive in his besieged suburb of Eastern Ghouta.

15-year-old activist Muhammed Najem is one of nearly 400,000 civilians trapped inside the rebel-held stronghold of Eastern Ghouta in Syria, where he documents the daily horrors of living in a war zone.

His footage, which he posts on social media, reveals the myriad of concrete suburban structures reduced to dust and ruins by airstrikes and military fire, and the desperation on people's faces as they carry the injured away from the chaos. In a recent video Muhammed said, "The world is watching us die of hunger and bombing, look at this destruction." 

Located 15 kilometres from the capital Damascus, Eastern Ghouta has been blockaded by President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces since 2013. But for the past two weeks the enclave has been under intense bombardment as the Syrian regime prepares for what is anticipated to be a final ground assault to retake it from the rebels.

In his first social media video, posted in December 2017, Muhammed Najem filmed himself in a dark room draped in the Syrian flag. The scene resembles the sparton concrete basements where civilians take refuge from the daily, often hourly shelling.

Muhammed has been posting regular updates on social media since December last year and said he was determined to convey the impact of the government's offensive.

In one video, he said he was sending a message on behalf of the children of Eastern Ghouta to the outside world, with a real live sound track of military fire echoing in the distance. He described how children have stopped going to school and are malnourished. In a corresponding tweet he wrote, "Seven years have passed and the children die every day."

In another video posted on February 26, Muhammed Najem urged people around the world to help civilians in Eastern Ghouta, with the familiar scenes of a suburb in ruins behind him.

A day later, he released a photo of himself on his Twitter page and tweeted, "despite the hysterical bombing, despite the hell of death, despite the lack of life and lack of food and medicine… Always #smiling."

The photo captured a subtle hint of emotion, however the majority of his posts are serious in tone.

In another tweet Muhammad Najem expresses the despair of his fellow civilians caught in Eastern Ghouta, and their concerns that they have been forgotten about: "We know that you got bored from our blood pictures. But we will continue appealing to you... Save us before it is too late."

 Syrian sisters

Along with Mohammed, other young activists have taken to social media.

Two sisters, Noor and Alaa, believed to be aged 10 and 8, have been posting since October 2017, documenting their own lives in the besieged Syrian suburb.

The sisters tweeted on February 27 they could hear airplanes in the skies above them,  despite the United Nations vote to implement a ceasefire in the region.  The tweet read: “5 hours ceasefire but the warplanes in the sky of #Ghouta. Where is the ceasfire”. 

Published 28 February 2018 at 4:04pm, updated 28 February 2018 at 5:08pm
By Tom Stayner