“The spark spurted out, and after the first drop of blood, we all became revolutionaries. In the eyes of the regime, we were all terrorists”.
Osama Al-Rifai is a Syrian media activist. He lost his mother at the age of 8 and grew up with his father, his sisters and his brother.
In 2011, at the age of 16, he joined the protests against the violent repression of the Assad regime. After a month of peaceful demonstrations, the regime intensified its repression, particularly in the old neighborhoods of Homs, and his father was arrested and tortured.
Fortunately, his family was able to have him released, in exchange for a $1,000 ransom. Within 24 hours, his body had turned completely red and his veins were protruding on his back, after having been subjected to all kinds of torture, including electric shocks.
Later, his father joined a small armed group in his neighborhood, to protect civilians from massacres carried out by the regime’s Shabiha (militias) such as the one in the Karm Al-Zaitoun & Al-Adawiya neighborhoods in March 2012, where dozens of women & children were slaughtered with knives.
Osama left Homs for Damascus, where life followed its course. He stayed there for a month, during which he joined demonstrations, which were very difficult to hold due to the strong presence of security forces in the capital and the many informants among civilians.
Like millions of Syrians, Osama decided to leave, and clandestinely crossed the border to Al-Ramtha in Jordan. After living temporarily in a refugee camp, he went to Amman where he joined a press network to document videos of the demonstrations in Syria, and list details on the martyrs.
In the evenings, he volunteered as a nurse at a health center in Amman that took care of Syrians injured during demonstrations. One day, while cataloguing the videos and details of the martyrs, he saw his father’s name and photos of his death. At that time, Osama was only 17 years old.
In spite of this terrible ordeal, he joined a television channel called “The spark of freedom” where he continued his work of documenting the war crimes of the Assad regime. Osama decided to focus on children, and dedicated a program to them, “The Youth of Freedom”.
Through this program, that he prepared and presented by himself, Osama told the life stories of Syrian children, martyrs or orphans. For several years, Osama studied in the morning and worked for the station in the afternoon.
Little by little, the enormous pressure due to hard work, family responsibilities, and the Syrian tragedy plunged him into depression. Osama finally left Jordan for Germany, where he is currently trying to study and rebuild his life, accompanied by his brother and sister.