Bassel Shehade: Syria’s Motorcycle Diarist

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The 28-year-old filmmaker who was born and raised in Damascus was said to be bursting with life. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Wissam Kanaan

Published Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Twenty-eight year old Bassel Shehade was shot dead in Homs on Monday night. The young filmmaker had left the comforts of campus college life to document events in his homeland.

Damascus - “I was gambling with my life everyday, but death did not get me.” With this sentence Bassel Shehade summarized the journey that the young Syrian man, enthralled by Che Guevara’s experience, took on a motorcycle from Damascus to New Delhi.

The young filmmaker and IT Engineer who was excited about the Syrian uprising insisted that his rendezvous with death be in his homeland, and specifically in the city of Homs, where he went two months ago to film what is happening there and train some activists in shooting and editing video footage.

Amidst this enthusiasm fraught with danger, his family’s attempts to keep him out of harm’s way after the Syrian crisis broke out failed. Last July, he was one of the first people to participate in a famous protest by intellectuals and artists in al-Midan neighborhood in Damascus.

Afterwards, his family was able to procure an academic scholarship for him to study filmmaking in the United States. But watching the news on TV was enough to make him abandon his dreams of cinema and return to the hotbed neighborhoods of Homs.

As if fate called him back to this place to die in his country the day before yesterday in al-Safsafa neighborhood in Homs, where he was found shot.

News of the young man’s death did not come as a surprise. He was haunted by an obsession with adventure. He bought an old Russian motorcycle that he called Lenin and took an exciting journey from the Syrian capital to the Indian capital.

This was not his first adventure and journey of discovery. Before his last trip, he had travelled around Syrian provinces that are barely noticed by the Syrian media.

Shahade’s film Brakes won Best Documentary at the last Dox Box documentary film festival in Damascus.

He was the first Syrian to cross the Iranian borders towards Pakistan by land as his work with the United Nations enabled him to do so.

At the end of his trip to New Delhi, he waited long hours to carry message of peace to all Syrians from the spiritual leader of Tibet and a necklace that he thought would protect him from harm.

The 28-year-old filmmaker who was born and raised in Damascus was said to be bursting with life.

As soon as news of his death spread, websites and social media networking sites were full of news and commentaries telling stories about this young man full of hope and ambition, who did not know despair and had no fear of the future. But bullets stopped his camera from turning forever.

This is the Syrian condition today. Between one massacre and another, bullets kill the best of its youth on Syria’s Via Dolorosa.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Rest in peace Bassel. You have shown the courage of conviction and a the sense of spirit sadly lacking in the current generation of world leaders who allow Assad and his henchmen to kill thousands with impunity. Our tolerance for murderous regimes must stop. International law has been misused to allow interventions based on false premises but when there is a genuine need for it, why is it being decommissioned? Apathy and cowardice allows the triumph of tyranny. How many have to die before the world leaders develop a backbone and stop Assad?

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