As the wave of uprisings in the middle-east known as the ”Arab Spring” reached the town of Daraa in southern Syria the revolt spread across the country. But as the long era of dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were put to an end Bashar Al-Assad has today been president for more than fifteen years. Syria is divided into four states with several rebel factions fighting in their own cause.
When the uprisings started in 2011 Khaled Alesmael was working as a foreign correspondent for Radio France International. After he made a radio feature about the increased food prices after the revolution his mother received a call from a Ministry of Information official saying that if he continued working they would cut off his tongue.
Khaled Alesmael left Syria for work at Egypt’s famous ON TV. After a year he returned to continue working with social issues and people’s storys, leaving politics aside. For years he had tried to get his application for a foreign correspondency authorization from the government but he never got it approved.
- The information ministry never gave me the papers. It was a strategic choice. If I said something the government did not like they could use it as an excuse for having me arrested, said Khaled Alesmael.
As a result he fled from the insecurity of Syria to Istanbul and started broadcasting to alternative radio stations in southern Turkey and northern Syria. Wanting to tell the stories that are untold in an area ravaged by war he started a new program: Syria Sings. The program focused on the history of music in Syria with the ambition to remind the Syrians that they are not only fighters.
- I showed that the sound of music was louder than the sound of war. People were shocked. It was war and someone was talking about music, said Khaled.
During the show Khaled Alesmael was interviewing a famous Syrian folk musician, Lena Chamamyan, about the rich musical history of Syria, both in a historic and a contemporary context. The show was widely successful and the radio managers from northern Syria called and wanted the show to be extended.
As Khaled Alesmael tried to renew his identity papers at the Syrian consulate in Istanbul he was declined and urged to return to Syria for his involuntary military service. Being unwilling to put his life at danger again he started looking for alternative ways of continuing working as a journalist without the risk.
- At the time Sweden was the first goal for Syrian refugees. They need a voice and they need a journalist, said Khaled Alesmael.
Today Khaled Alesmael has made his way to Sweden without papers, but he does not identify himself as a refugee. He wants to find a job as a journalist and continue to tell the stories of the Syrian people without having his life at stake. His decisiveness has already taken him far.
- Today I work for Swedish Television as a researcher and tolk.. I mean translator, said Khaled Alesmael.