- Title: "You destroy, we rebuild": a builder's life in war-torn Syria
- Date: 4th July 2017
- Summary: BUILDERS HOLDING SHOVELS IN AIR, SINGING AND DANCING ARABIC DABKE DANCE AROUND BUILDING SITE
- Embargoed: 18th July 2017 10:00
- Keywords: Syrian builder Syrian war Deraa city construction workers viral video civil war
- Location: SAIDA, SYRIA
- City: SAIDA, SYRIA
- Country: Syria
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA0026OAUW5X
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: When builder Abu Salem repairs a shell hole in a house in rebel-held southern Syria, he knows it might not be the last job he does on the structure.
Abu Salem heads a group of 12 construction workers who rebuild and patch up buildings damaged by barrel bombs, air strikes and shelling in and around Deraa city.
With no access to modern tools, and materials made expensive by the war economy, Abu Salem's men break up buildings, mix concrete and carry loads by hand.
The group of builders go by the name 'You Destroy, We Rebuild Brigade'.
"I established this brigade with a group of people who had never participated in the war or anything else, and whose job was this (construction) from the start. It happened by chance, as our people are currently going through a time of strife due to the ongoing war, we decided to dub ourselves a brigade, because if we had said we were just a builders workshop, it would have been too ordinary," Abu Salem said, speaking from a building site in the rebel-held town of Saida, in Syria's Deraa province.
Brigade members are paid in accordance with what customers can afford, averaging the equivalent of a mere four or five U.S. dollars a day.
Abu Salem said he and his men stood ready to help whichever parties eventually agree to rebuild Syria.
"No matter how much destruction occurs, we will be here for the country and God willing we will rebuild it. We don't mean to point any fingers, but whoever is plotting against the country and its destruction, we are telling them that we are here, and the more they destroy, the more we will, God willing, rebuild," he said.
Three months ago, a video circulated widely on Syrian social media showing masked men kneeling in formation, brandishing staffs and rising to shouts of "God is Great".
At first glance it looked like a typical example of the belligerent propaganda footage often posted by armed groups in the Syrian conflict. But it wasn't what it seemed.
In the video, Abu Salem and his men vow to rebuild and repair as they wave shovels and pickaxes and then descend into laughter.
And, despite the difficulties, the group have kept their sense of humour, dancing and singing as they work.
Syria's war has destroyed the national economy and fractured the country into a patchwork of areas of control which bisect trading routes, raising prices and causing local shortages of vital commodities.
But money can sometimes talk louder than political loyalty, and across Syria goods still find their way across front lines, with heavy bribes and taxes paid at checkpoints.
Abu Salem lives in a rebel-held area but sources his building materials from government-controlled zones.
He is passionate about his mission to reverse the destruction, but laments he can't do as good a job as he'd like.
There are no engineers, modern construction techniques or cement mixers.
He and his colleagues reuse rubble and steel from destroyed buildings and do everything by hand, hopeful that one day their beloved hometown will be rebuilt.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: Audio restrictions: This clip's Audio includes copyrighted material. User is responsible for obtaining additional clearances before publishing the audio contained in this clip.