While Bashar Al-Assad remains the undisputed leader of Syria, he is the master of a ruined country and a shattered people. The country is off-limits to all journalists, but our team managed to enter.
In eastern Aleppo, where the Sunni neighbourhoods were the first to rebel against Assad, not a single wall has been left standing. The city was relentlessly pounded by attacks from the Syrian army and the Russians for years. The once-bustling souk of Aleppo, an architectural jewel classified as a World Heritage Site, is now nothing more than a heap of stones. People are trying to survive without water or electricity, and cholera has even made a comeback. The country’s economy is at a standstill with more than 90% of people living below the poverty line.
In Damascus, people almost go about their business normally. The seat of power was spared from the wider destruction and there are still a few trendy bars. Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, continue to behave as if everything is normal, meetings with foreign heads of state or visiting earthquake victims.
In fact the dictator is only in control of 70% of the country. We managed to film in northwest Syria, which is still under Islamist control. On the front line, the !ghters of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham face the troops of Bashar el-Assad.