Rick Abath used to work the night shift at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He would arrive around 11:30 p.m. and spend the night patrolling the halls of one of the finest museums in the state.
On the night shift, only two young watchmen were responsible for guarding the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art housed in the museum, including Rembrandt’s only seascape painting, and a painting by the Dutch artist Vermeer, only one of about 36 in existence.
The job was pretty uneventful. Even boring.
But on St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 1990, Abath’s usual routine was dramatically shattered. Two men dressed as Boston Police officers rang the doorbell. Going against protocol, Abath let them into the museum. Within minutes he and his partner were subdued and the two thieves had free reign over the museum.
On Friday night AC360° will air a special report “Arab Spring: Revolution Interrupted.” In December 2010, a young Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Mouazizi refused to pay a bribe to a local inspector who slapped him. This indignity led Bouazizi to set himself on fire in protest and Tunisians, already fed up with the unemployment, corruption and repressive conditions in the country took to the streets, quickly causing the resignation of Tunisia's president. These events sparked a wave of revolutions across the region in countries like Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Syria.
It's been written that a decade's worth of events have occurred in the Arab world in just over a year. Long time dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi have fallen, while the regime of Bashar al-Assad still clings to power in Syria, despite 15 months of ongoing conflict.
On Friday night after AC360° aired, Anderson and team embarked on a nearly 28 hour trip (including two plane rides, layovers and a three hour drive) that took us from New York City to the eastern border of Turkey.
Where are we going? The eastern part of Turkey borders Syria. Believe me, we would love to actually go into Syria and report what’s happening in the country. However, despite Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s claims that journalists are free to report from the country, our visa applications have disappeared into the Syrian embassy in Washington with no word on if we are approved, denied, or even when a decision would be made.
So we will stick to the Turkey side of the border, which holds a piece of the conflict the world should see. Nearly 25,000 Syrians have fled across the border into Turkey since the uprising in Syria began last March. Turkey, which maintains an open border policy with Syria, has set up numerous camps close to the border for the refugees that have been steadily streaming in to escape the violence.
We have heard stories of families who fled their homes, mostly on foot, to escape the relentless shelling of cities like Homs, Aleppo, Jisr al Shughur. We’ve heard stories of parents who have lost sons, wives who have lost husbands, ordinary citizens who have lost not only their homes but their beloved country as well. We’ve heard their stories, but we haven’t met the victims ourselves, so we will spend the weekend visiting the camps and speaking with some of these refugees. We will tell the world their stories on Monday night when we broadcast live at 8pm ET on CNN.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with AC361°