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Mohamad Almasalmeh
Mohamad Almasalmeh
Image: Niamh Heery

Mohamad Almasalmeh witnessed one of the first killings of Syrian conflict

He is one of the 2.5 million who have fled the country.
Mar 15th 2014, 5:30 PM 4,604 11

IRISH FILM-MAKER NIAMH Heery is completing the final stages a documentary on the Syrian Refugee Camp at Harmanli in  Bulgaria.

There she met Mohamad Almasalmeh. He was 17 when he witnessed the first killings of the Syrian conflict in his hometown of Dar’aa, and is one of the 2.5 million who have fled Syria.

He shared his story with Heery, of how in 2011 residents in his town began protesting against the imprisonment and torture of local children who were caught writing anti-government graffiti.

“They were told to ‘forget about them’,” she said.

“In one of the Dar’aa protests on March 18 2011, a huge police presence was felt, on the ground and at a height. Shots were fired at the crowd. Three people were killed.”

These were the first people killed in the Syrian revolution.

Almasalmeh saw the first man being shot, falling to the ground after a bullet entered his abdomen.

Protests began in other major towns soon after, he told Heery, in support of the residents of Dar’aa who wanted the children freed.

The event was filmed by his older cousin, who sent the footage on to Al Jazeera. He continued to film events for the next two years, before he shot in Dar’aa.

Forced displacement

Syria is now the world’s leader for forced displacement, as over 6.5 million has been forced to move.

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That’s 40 per cent of the country’s population prior to the conflict.

“It is unconscionable that a humanitarian catastrophe of this scale is unfolding before our eyes with no meaningful progress to stop the bloodshed,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has said.

Refugees continue to pour across borders into neighbouring countries. Lebanon, a country with a population just shy of 5 million, has received close to 1 million.

In Europe, 56,000 applications for asylum have been received, the UN said, and is appealing for regions around the world to “ensure access to territory for all Syrians seeking protection”.

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Nicky Ryan

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