‘City of Ghosts’ Tells the Story of Citizen Journalists Fighting ISIS Propaganda


The men and women of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered
Silently are real journalistic heroes. They work in secret and under constant threat, reporting on the depredations of ISIS in their
home city. Some fled in fear for their own lives. Even in exile, they are in no way safe. The website Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently publishes firsthand accounts of the war crimes
of ISIS in often horrific detail. City of Ghosts, a new documentary by Academy Award nominated
director Matthew Heineman, tells the story of the citizen journalists
who risk their lives to show the world the atrocities committed
by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. And after ISIS took over the city there really
was not any information going in or information going out. There were no western journalists there. They would be killed instantly. And so, you know, this group really provided
a service to the world to help understand the atrocities that were
being committed in their home town. Which just happened to be the capital of the Islamic
State. Basically we’re working two groups. The first group is operating in Raqqa and
there are 17 colleagues, and we are almost 10 outside. So the first group, our team in Raqqa, they
take photos, videos, they send us the news, information, and they
send it to the second team outside, and the second team publish it online, on
social media, on our website. And at the same time we smuggle information
in, because Raqqa is cut off from the entire world. There’s like no satellites, no TV, mostly
there are no internet. So we spread a magazine inside Raqqa city, so our magazine has the same cover as the
ISIS magazine to reach out the largest number of audience. So it’s our main tool to educate the people
about the ideology of ISIS, about the risk of ISIS. I think one of the remarkable things about
the group is that these guys didn’t have to do this. You know, they didn’t have to become citizen
journalists, they’re all studying to become doctors and
lawyers and scientists, but they chose to do this and this choice
came with enormous consequences. I didn’t want to shy away from the violence, I didn’t want to shy away from the reality,
the horror, the fear, that the citizens of Raqqa live with every single
day. On the other hand I didn’t want people in
theaters to sort of run out because it was so extreme. And so, you know, very much tried to walk
that tight rope. But again, I don’t think it would do justice
to this story, to the group, to all that they’ve been through to shy away
from this violence. And I think it’s, you know, important to show,
to help people empathize for what they have to live with every single
day. For sure, like, to watch your colleagues or
your family members, your relatives, are getting killed. It’s like something not easy. And especially I was with my colleague who
watched the video the execution video of his father. So I don’t know how he’s feeling now, and
he keep watching this video. But like when I asked him he said that watching
this video give him more power to complete the work. So it was like a hard thing but watching this
videos or the video of our colleagues, our family members, it gives like more power to complete our work. I can’t compare our group with ISIS. ISIS is like the media office in Decorah as
an example is getting like a hundred thousand fifty five
dollars monthly to do their work, and we were running out of funds. So they have all the equipment to shoot their
videos, And we are working with simple equipment. So first we can’t compare about size, and then but even without all these funds
or even experience we were able to make a change. So and that’s the reason ISIS started to target us specifically. You know in this world of sort of ‘fake news’ and where truth seems to be malleable, I think
there’s not, there’s no more important story to tell than
the story of people fighting for the truth, people seeking the truth, people risking their
lives to expose the truth, and, you know, that’s one of the biggest motivations
for me to make this film, was to highlight the incredible work that
Aziz and his colleagues are doing. To some degree this film is an homage to journalism,
an homage to citizen journalism, an homage to fighting for the truth.

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