Location: Homs, Syria
Description: The number one rule for autocrats clamping down on an uprising, whether you're talking about Tehran in 2009 or Philadelphia in 1776, has always been the same: Muffle the press. The upheaval across the Middle East in recent months has provided some particularly vivid and disturbing examples of this phenomenon: Egypt's "day of hunting journalists," the arrest of Syrian bloggers, or the four New York Times journalists' harrowing tale of being captured by Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's soldiers. Understanding the visceral power of images to shape emotions and opinions in distant countries, the dictators have been particularly attentive to television stations: During Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's final days in office, while government thugs battled with protesters in the streets of Cairo, the state TV station blared the national anthem and picturesque images of the Nile River.
Into the void has stepped an unlikely hero: YouTube. Over the last three months, the video posting site has turned into an aggregator for homemade videos of revolution. Revolutionaries all across the Middle East, filming with the video recorders in their phones or other rudimentary technology while dodging bullets or racing through angry crowds, have created an online visual archive of the uprisings: urgent, jittery videos, punctuated by gunshots, shouts, and moments of breathtaking horror. Unfortunately, they're not easy to find -- nobody is in charge with organizing this massive amount of information, and the videos tagged solely in Arabic can be hard for English-speakers to track down. Once seen, however, they are difficult to forget -- exactly what the dictators feared.
Here, a protester in the western city of Homs tears down a poster of Hafez al-Assad, the father of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The writing on the gate establishes that this video was taken in Homs, but many other videos do not possess such obvious landmarks. In those cases, viewers have to take the uploader at their word that the video was shot where and when they say it was.