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Free Syrian Army fighters take a break from clashes in a coffee shop in Aleppo in this August 12, 2012 file photo. (GORAN TOMASEVIC/REUTERS)
Free Syrian Army fighters take a break from clashes in a coffee shop in Aleppo in this August 12, 2012 file photo. (GORAN TOMASEVIC/REUTERS)

Eighteen days with the Syrian rebels Add to ...

Of course I wanted to go to Syria. When a big story like this shows up, I believe my job is to go there and produce pictures. I gave up going to cover the Olympics. It was two days before my trip to London and I changed my ticket and went to Syria instead. I have been covering conflict for many years, since the Balkans in 1991.

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Pictures must show the reality of the war in Syria and that’s why I wanted to be as close as I could to the fighters at the very front line to show exactly what they are doing, their emotions, how they run and fire weapons and also how they react to incoming shells.

There is a certain amount of risk and you need to take all necessary precautions but if you want to tell the true story, you have to be there.

We organized everything before entering Syria so members of the Free Syrian Army were waiting for us on the other side of the border. As soon as we crossed, we went to a farm, which was the rebel base where Arab-speaking journalist Hadeel Al Shalchi spoke with the local commander. On the same day that we crossed the border, we managed to get to the front line in Aleppo.

The Free Syrian Army is organized and knows what it is doing. Some members are former Syrian soldiers who defected but most are young civilians, some 16 or 17 years old. They are fighting the Syrian Army with small arms and RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and without many supplies but somehow they set up a supply line to get fuel for their vehicles.

They are also media friendly. At first they noticed my presence and were a little bit suspicious but after a while they began saying “Goran come here,” though they didn’t really speak English. They would tell me what missions they were conducting or show me some positions and ask if I wanted to join them.

Goran Tomasevic is an international war photographer for Reuters.

 

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