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Syria's Rebels Raise Funds Online

The brigades use slick videos to reach donors on the Web
Rebel fighters listen to their commander at a base in Tal Rifaat, Syria, before departing for the front line in Aleppo on Aug. 15
Rebel fighters listen to their commander at a base in Tal Rifaat, Syria, before departing for the front line in Aleppo on Aug. 15Photograph by Bryan Denton/Redux

In a small house in Reyhanli, Turkey, three miles from the Syrian border, one of the financial battles of Syria’s civil war is being fought. Abu Mohammed al-Mohandis (his nom de guerre) opens “The Martyrs of Aleppo Brigade Spec-Ops,” a Facebook page dedicated to the exploits of his unit, one of many fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Seated cross-legged on a mattress on the living room floor, Abu Mohammed scrolls through the list of links on his laptop and opens one of the videos he shot. A revolutionary song fills the small room; the footage shows men in cars heading to battle. It’s designed to impress would-be donors to the Martyrs of Aleppo.

Before the war, the engineer-turned-fighter’s only experience with filmmaking was taking home movies. Now he shoots footage of rebel military operations, captured government soldiers, and slain fighters. “When I’m carrying a camera, the camera itself is a weapon,” he says. Abu Mohammed has grown adept at shooting videos, editing them, adding text and his brigade’s logo—a falcon flying under a white banner praising God and the prophet Mohammed—then uploading the videos to the brigade’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.