Their families have been killed, they live in hiding, but a brave group of Syrians continue to defy Islamic State by reporting its atrocities to the world. The director of a new documentary explains how he told their shocking stories
The most remarkable scene in Matthew Heineman’s new film City of Ghosts – indeed, possibly the most remarkable scene in any documentary you’re likely to see this year – takes place in an unfurnished German apartment. Hamoud al-Mousa, a founder member of the citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) sits staring at a laptop, watching a video of his father’s murder at the hands of Islamic State militants. The killing has been filmed in the manner of a Michael Bay movie, bombastic and slickly edited. It is intended to strike fear into Hamoud – and any others willing to expose the many atrocities committed by the terrorist group. Hamoud however refuses to be cowed. “I watch the video a lot. It gives me strength,” he says.
Hamoud’s fortitude in the face of such brutality will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of RBSS. Formed initially to document the assault carried out by the Assad regime on their home city, the group turned their attention to Isis when the group took control of Raqqa in 2014 and declared it the capital of their new caliphate. Since then RBSS has, through social media postings and cameraphone footage, shone a light on a regime that is out of reach of western journalists. They have done so at enormous personal cost: several members of the group have been executed, as well as friends and family members. Hamoud’s father is just one of many victims.