Posted June 18, 2014

Temple graduate reports from Syrian war zone

Jad Sleiman
A member of the Syrian rebel group Harakat Hazm looks skyward in expectation of another air strike. Jad Sleiman, SMC '14, spent three days reporting about group the week after graduation.

Jad Sleiman, SMC ’14, did not wait long to make his degree work for him. 

Sleiman graduated May 15 with a journalism degree from Temple’s School of Media and Communication. The following week, he was in the heart of the Syrian war zone for three days.

And the week after that, The Washington Times ran his video about Harakat Hazm, a new conglomerate of two dozen rebel groups.

That trip to Syria was Sleiman’s first time reporting from a war zone. He would not speak about how he got into Syria and made connections with the rebels. Those are facts he had to keep close to his chest to be able to go back.

But there is more to the story than how Sleiman wrangled his way into the country. Generally, in the coverage of wars around the world, Sleiman said the fighters always seem “so foreign.”

“I wanted people to see people like their [own] friends and neighbors,” he said.

Sleiman also made a four-minute video that focuses on the Aleppo suburb of Daret Ezzah, which has become a more frequent target of bombings. There, he interviewed rebel fighters who have been forced into a new way of life.

The fighters in Sleiman’s story counter many of the stereotypes Sleiman says are common in media coverage of the war. They are wearing civilian clothes and are not brandishing weapons.

“The group was very open to filming,” said Sleiman, who speaks fluent Arabic. “I just explained that I was an American journalist, talked a bit about the project and asked them, one by one, to join me in another room for short interviews.”

Those interviews unveiled the reasons those everyday people have chosen to risk their lives and fight for what they believe is right. A 21-year-old told Sleiman he had seen women and children dying as a result of the war. “The first day I held a rifle, I was here in Daret Ezzah,” he said. “I decided to pick up a weapon before the same thing happens here.”

Sleiman will begin graduate school this fall in the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, where he will focus on international reporting. He plans to return to Syria to expand his story into a feature-length documentary about how living in a war zone changes everyday people into soldiers.

“I think America plays a huge role in global affairs, so Americans need to be informed,” he said.

Watch Sleiman's video footage from Syria.


—Jeff Cronin