How teens started Syria's uprising 1 year ago

When Mohammed, 15, and a group of boys spray-painted "Down with the regime" on a wall last year, it sparked a revolution.
CBS News

(CBS News) AMMAN, Jordan - It has now been a year since Syrians rose up against the Assad dictatorship. On Friday -- the Muslim holy day -- the streets were filled once again with protesters, demanding that Bashar al-Assad go. The U.N. says 8,000 civilians have been killed in Assad's brutal crackdown on dissent.

The freedom movement in Syria started last year as revolutions swept through Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward explains that the Syrian uprising began with a few teenagers and caught up with one of them in Jordan.

When 15-year-old Mohammed and a group of young boys spray-painted "Down with the regime" on a school wall one year ago, they had no idea that their actions would spark a revolution.

"We saw it during the other Arab revolutions," he said. "We just wrote the same "

Two days after painting the graffiti, Mohammed said he and seven other boys -- the youngest of whom was just 10 years old -- were arrested by security forces. He said they were tortured.

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"They hung me from the door by my hands for four hours," he said. "They stripped me naked and then they began to beat me."

The boys were released two weeks later, but their detention and torture ignited large protests in their hometown of Deraa -- protests the regime tried to stop with brutal tactics. Mohammed and his family fled to Jordan in fear for their lives.

One year later, the regime continues its violent crackdown on the opposition and the number of people fleeing the country continues to rise.

That is Syria right behind me. In fact we're so close that we're actually seeing the Syrian network on our cell phones. Since the uprising began a year ago, more than 7,000 people have made the dangerous journey from inside Syria to the safety of Jordan.

Most stay in small private homes provided by charities. Almost all have horrifying stories and didn't want their faces shown.

This man claimed that pro-government thugs, known as Shabiha, attacked him at a protest. He said they tied an explosive to his hand and blew it up.

Despite all the deaths and suffering of the past year, Mohammed said he would do the same again.

"A lot of youths have died for the revolution in Syria," he said. "They were kids just like me. They went to take part in those demos and they never came back."

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News