October 21, 2017
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A day in the life of a sniper fighting ISIS

In few places has the fighting against the Islamic State been as heavy and sustained as in the Syrian town of Kobani, near the Turkish border. The Kurdish population there slowly but surely took back their streets from the terror organization. Filmmaker Reber Dosky made the trek to Kobani and came back with a unique portrait of a sniper in a battered city.

By Jos DE PUTTER, De Correspondent

Filmmaker Reber Dosky trekked through Kurdistan in February and March 2015. In Syria, he stayed in the border town of Kobani, where Kurdish forces had been engaged in heavy fighting with ISIS occupiers for months. ISIS attacked the city in October 2014, and the civilian population fled.

The city seemed on the verge of falling to ISIS when the defending Kurdish forces faced an ammunition shortage and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained adamant in his refusal to help the Kurdish military. American bombers carried out at least eight attacks on ISIS in the city, giving Kurdish forces the opportunity to gradually recapture the town, one block at a time.

Seeing Kobani today, it is hard to shake off the associations with Dresden in 1945 or Grozny in 2000. The destruction is immense. And it is amid the rubble that Reber finds the main character for the short film he made for The Correspondent: Meet Haron, the sniper.

Haron’s story is an extraordinary one. He is a Kurdish freedom fighter who came to Kobani to help put a stop to the horrors inflicted by ISIS. Haron speaks about what it takes to be a sniper, his dreams for the future, and his nightmares.

Story 9.1Given the location and the subject, The Story of a Sniper is of course an intense film that contains shocking images. But Reber Dosky has managed to give the film and his portrait of Haron a human face. We see the sniper go to the barbershop, and the film answers the questions the barber asks him – questions to which Haron himself only replies with silence there in the barber’s chair. We catch a glimpse of things through Haron’s eyes and witness his very personal fight against ISIS.

Reber Dosky is a Dutch-Kurdish filmmaker, who as he puts it, “hocked his heart somewhere in Kobani.” And this project in particular faced its fair share of setbacks. Dosky arranged to use a drone fitted with a camera, for instance, to fly over the city in an attempt to capture the sheer vastness of the devastation. Once he had shot this and all the other footage – at considerable risk to life and limb – he returned home to start editing. But the disks with all the footage didn’t survive the trip. So he made the trek a second time, to shoot the film all over again.