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Syrian rebel pictured with one hand texting and the other on the trigger

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New York Times foreign correspondent C.J. Chivers has snapped a picture of a Syrian resistance fighter texting while manning a machine gun, documenting a practice reportedly common in rebel brigades.

Syrian rebel texting with machine gun
Syrian rebel texting with machine gun

Much has been written about the influence of social media on the events of the Arab Spring — but according to New York Times foreign correspondent C.J. Chivers, one of the most important technologies for rebels in Syria's ongoing civil war is SMS. Taken by Chivers, the photograph above shows former Syrian Army soldier Ahmed Sheikha texting while manning a 7.62mm PK machine gun and speeding towards the war-torn city of Aleppo. He is not unusual, with the passable cellular coverage still provided in many parts of Syria making mobile phones a relatively safe and reliable option for communication between rebel brigades.

"When they stop, many of them immediately look for ways to recharge their phone batteries," writes Chivers. "And, often as they move and enter an area with a strong signal, they commence texting back and forth." Whether the popularity of standard cell phone functionality will prompt a blackout similar to last year's nationwide internet shutdown remains to be seen — given the ubiquity of the devices, it would certainly be a desperate move.