DAY 803 - MAY 20, 2013


Pro-Assad hacker group, the Syrian Electronic Army, breaks into the Associated Press Twitter account and tweets about a bomb detonating in the White House, causing a stock market free fall to the tune of $136 billion. Internet videos emerge depicting a Syrian rebel commander eating the lung of a dead government soldier. The cannibalism stunt is used by anti-war advocates around the world as justification to avoid arming the Syrian opposition. France and England believe they have proof that Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people. Israel uses this information as the catalyst to perpetrate a second bombing inside Syria, this time on Bashar Al Assad's most advanced weapons facility, which many think is used to manufacture biological weapons. Two car bombs go off across the Turkish border while the Syrian government commits massacres in Baniyas and Al Bayda, calling it an act of sectarian cleansing. The UN puts the death toll at 80,000 since the start of the conflict, as 4.5 million people are internally displaced within Syria's borders and one million refugees are displaced outside.  

Journalists from the French newspaper Le Monde produce a video from the suburbs of Damascus that shows victims of an apparent chemical attack in late March. The journalists bring gas masks for the rebel soldiers in the area and draw blood from the victims, which they say they will have tested once back in Europe. In many ways you think of this as the kind of story that got you into journalism in the first place. It is the kind of investigative work that will actually make a difference in the world. You desperately hope the Le Monde people get back to France alive. In terms of your own life, the first thing you notice when you arrive in Al Raqqa is that it is nearly impossible to avoid Al Qaeda in the city. Jabhat Al Nusra is the main controller of the area. When the Islamists took over, the first thing they did was pull down the golden statue of Hafez Al Assad, Bashar Al Assad's late father and former president of Syria. All of the soldiers wave the black Tawhid flag along with their black uniforms, black boots, and black keffiyehs. The same week you arrive in Al Raqqa, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, takes over the city. They impose a strict Sharia court of law and several times a week one of their soldiers will hold a public execution in the town square. The victims are usually Alawites beholden to Assad's regime, but you sense that ISIS is becoming more extreme by the day. Just yesterday they beheaded someone for drinking alcohol. They have already burned down one of the Christian churches that had been standing for centuries. On the other side, however, ISIS is providing food and education to the people of Al Raqqa. They give out toys and Qurans to the children and they have opened a madrasa in the city. You and Jeremy share a feature on the cover of the The New York Times after the fall of Al Raqqa. It is your greatest achievement to date and many radio and television networks contact you to do live news-crosses about the situation in northeastern Syria. However, you have to constantly hide from the ISIS soldiers who permeate the streets. They know that two western journalists are in the city, they just don't know where. It seems it may only be a matter of time before they find you. Just one more story, you tell yourself. Then you will leave...