A young Syrian man fled the war and devoted his life to collecting digital evidence of crimes committed by the Syrian regime from 2011 to now.

Tamer Turkmani stares at his laptop screen for hours every day. A Syrian national, Turkmani has been collecting photographic and video evidence of people who have been killed in the course of the Syrian civil war. 

Turkmani's goal is to maintain a digital archive of the victims who have been shot dead by the troops loyal to Bashar al Assad. 

"I knew that these martyrs needed to have their names documented so the coming generations could honour and remember them," 32-year-old Tamer told TRT World. 

It started off with Turkmani writing a Facebook post in 2014, urging people on his friends list to send the photos of their loved ones who have been gunned down mercilessly by the Assad regime. 

In less than 24 hours, Tamer received at least 2,000 photos.

From that day, Turkmani worked toward designing a 170-meter-long mural containing 50,000 pictures of victims. He planned to put up the mural on the sidewalk right across the White House in Washington DC. Unable to travel to the US, his friends helped him display it at the same spot in August 2015.  

"I worked on several other portraits that were displayed in European countries such as Austria, Romania, Canada and Switzerland," Tamer says.

In 2020, Turkmani held an exhibition in Türkiye's Istanbul city. Titled "People of Memory," the exhibition featured photos of 600 children along with the stories of how they were killed by the Syrian regime between 2011-2012.

In 2012, a year after the Syrian revolution shook the Assad regime, Turkmani was hit by a bullet, which left him injured. Two years later, he left his hometown Homs and crossed over to Jordan. 

At least 50,000 photos of Syrian victims were taken from Tamer Turkmani's digital archive and displayed in front of the White House in 2015.
At least 50,000 photos of Syrian victims were taken from Tamer Turkmani's digital archive and displayed in front of the White House in 2015. (AP)

Misleading reports

Away from the war, Turkmani began collecting two million YouTube videos of demonstrations, street battles, and speeches of various politicians.

"Everything related to the lives of Syrians since the beginning of the war, I am working on gathering them to be a witness in history one day," he added. 

The idea of downloading videos from YouTube en masse came to him after he noticed that the video-sharing platform had pulled down dozens of videos showing killings and massacres of Syrians. Upon inquiry, he learned that YouTube removed that content under the pretext of its community guidelines. 

Downloading such a large number of videos needed more and more hard drives. That's where his friends and family members are proving helpful. He's over forty thousand gigabytes of data stored on dozens of hard drives. 

For his commitment to preserving the history of the Syrian war, many of his friends and fellow activists call him: "the memory of the Syrian Revolution.”

Turkmani also collects books about the Syrian revolution. He has a digital archive of 650 books. He sends them to people if they ask for one. 

He has also maintained a database of 260,000 news articles from about 190 news websites. The articles are about the major events of the first wave of Arab Spring protests that hit the Assad regime in 2011. They also chronicle isolated incidents of torture, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuse.  

"I managed them all on Excel and I can search about anything I need to know by typing the date. It shows us all the articles published in newspapers and websites that day," he said.

"All these files that I collected years ago will help us in the future to write history based on pieces of evidence in front of us. We will tell our children what happened in Syria with audio and video, and we will expose the reasons for our departure from Syria and describe the worst tragedy that happened to us."

Turkmani has another goal to achieve — which is to provide all the necessary evidence that would lead to the prosecution of Bashar al Assad and members of his armed forces who have committed war crimes in the past 11 years of the Syrian civil war. 

"The documentation will ensure that the truth is not falsified. This will bust all the misleading reports and false allegations broadcast by the Syrian media," he said. 

Turkmani now wants to develop an online library where he could upload his archives so people could access them freely. 

"This library will help any student, researcher or journalist to obtain the necessary information — photos, videos, reports and articles that expose  the Syrian regime's crimes against Syrians for years."

Source: TRT World