First Person

The Syrian Filmmaker Who Risked Her Life to Document the Atrocities in Aleppo


Waad al-Kateab and Sama
Waad al-Kateab and Sama from For Sama. PBS Frontline

Waad al-Kateab’s film focuses on one of the hardest-hit cities in Syria’s ongoing conflict.

The Syrian war that erupted in 2011 and continues to this day is one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. Some 400,000 people have died in the fighting, many of them in brutal assaults carried out the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. More than 6 million Syrians are now refugees.

One major flash point has been the northern city of Aleppo, where rebel forces held out for years. In 2016, the Assad regime, backed by Russian forces, set siege to the city for six months.

Waad al-Kateab was a 20-year-old student when the protests began in 2011. She spent the next five years filming the conflict in Aleppo and documenting the impact of the war on civilians. That footage formed the basis for the documentary For Sama. It will be broadcast on Frontline this month.

Kateab is our guest on First Person this week.


About First Person:  Each week on First Person, we conduct a narrative-driven conversation with one person whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world. Our guests tend to be people who have participated directly in events, either as protagonists or eyewitnesses. We get them to tell their story, not just offer analysis. First Person is hosted by FP deputy editor Sarah Wildman. Sarah is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in the New York TimesSlate, Vox and the New Yorker online. She is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.  See All Episodes


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