February 13th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

One activist's chronicle of daily hell in Syria

As fresh attacks continue in the besieged city of Homs, Syrian activist "Danny," whose name we are protecting, has escaped the slaughter there and has re-emerged in Lebanon.

Before he left Homs, Danny shared his stories with CNN and posted a number of videos on YouTube purporting to show the violence there. Although CNN cannot verify these videos independently, they appear to show a desperate situation.

Danny’s family was waiting in Cairo last week, desperate for news of his fate.

Watching a video of the carnage, Danny's mother, Helen Abdul Dayem, said, “How can the world not listen to the cries of these mothers? I can’t watch this.”

Activists claim that President Bashar al-Assad's government has been unrelenting in its violence, something the government denies. Danny’s family has become almost a PR agency for the uprising, helping to get journalists into Syria and information out.

Danny’s parents and younger siblings all waited by the phone to hear what had happened to the 23-year-old who put himself in harm's way to chronicle the atrocities in a besieged city. For Akram Abdul Dayem, Danny’s father, the suspense was too much. He rocked back and forth on the couch.

“Just get through this day. Calm down,” his wife told him. But his nerves were too frayed. “I’m taking a machine gun and I’m going to get him. I am. I’ve had enough,” he said.

Soon, a message online confirmed that their son was still alive. Then the telephone rang: Danny was safe and in Lebanon. Connected to Danny on the phone, his father began to sob. Then the connection went dead. Soon, Danny called again.

“Danny, are you all right? It’s good to hear your voice. We’re so worried about you, Danny,” his mother said. She relayed his message to the family: “He says he doesn’t care. They said he was dead four times already,” she said amid nervous laughter. “Well, we care.”

The following is an edited ongoing account of what Danny was seeing, hearing and thinking as the situation in Syria grew more desperate each day.

February 9

As the shelling of Homs continues, Danny witnesses even more horror. This time, it is quite close to home, literally. The building he is in was hit, he says. People moved quickly to try to gather bodies and bury them.

“There's not one safe place in this area. The army is surrounding us, surrounding us in big numbers. Lots of tanks, lots of foot men, lots of troops, anti-air tanks,  tanks, they are hitting us with rockets nonstop from 4 a.m. The same building I'm in, they hit it with a rocket.

Three women they killed, they were pieces. That was 7 a.m., we had to take them - put them inside and take them, bury them.

We don't know how many casualties we have got. I am sure there's 93 people dead. We have their names, but there's more than another 100 underneath the destruction of the buildings.

They have helicopters over this area, hitting us with helicopters, and they are using human shields in their checkpoints so the free armies can't hit the checkpoints. We don't have any medication. We have only one field hospital left. We have only about six doctors now. And that's not enough.”

Because of the constant attacks, Danny says, he and others are at risk if they try to escape what is becoming a daily war zone. They are faced with a choice: hope their building isn’t hit, or try to escape and possibly be hit while fleeing. And that terror is shaking them as they fear that al-Assad’s army is closing in on where Danny is.

“Look, anyone who walks the street is in a risk he might get hit by a rocket or tank shell. Anyone who goes out in the street will be hit by a sniper and rocket. Even if you sit in your house, you're not safe. You might get hit by a tank shell or by a rocket.

The Syrian army is surrounding this area. The free army cannot fight that hard. The Syrian army is getting really close.

We expect the Syrian army will be in the area and arrest lots of people. It will kill people here. We have no idea what to do. We cannot leave this area. No one can come in. No one can go out. They've shot all the ways.”

 The attack on his building has left it in shambles, Danny says.

“More than - more than 10 rockets, 15 rockets and tank shells landed on in the street I live in. This street is only about 50 meters long. The building, my building, was hit by tank shells by rockets.

Underneath my building were three women were killed. We found them in pieces about 7 a.m. Four guys in the same house as me were injured. The situation is really bad.

 The women died. Children died. We have more than 30 children dead from four days ago. We have loads of children injured. My friends are in a hospital. I hope they'll be OK. Lots of them have been hit by fighters yesterday. (Some were hit) today just because of trying to cross the street.

Snipers hit women, children, men, kids, doesn't matter. The Syrian army - I'm not going to call it the Syrian army, they have no humanity in them, they kill anything in front of them. They are hitting civilian houses.”

 As the situation grows even more desperate around him, Danny’s cries for help also become more serious. He begs for a real solution, not just simply people keeping watch of the situation.

“We don't want the monitors anymore. They sent the monitors last time, and we did not get anything out of it. We wanted the U.N. to take this case. We wanted the U.N. to interfere in this.

 If we get the airplanes here, bombard the regime. We want someone to do something about this. We're going to get killed. I'm sure I'll get killed tomorrow if the army gets in here. No one's doing anything about this. We don't want the monitors or the Arab League. They are going to do nothing about this. We want the U.N. to interfere, the U.N. to do something.”

 The shelling, the attacks, the sniper fire haven’t just put fear into Syrians on the ground. It’s also crippled them in many other ways. There is no “normal life” anymore.

 “There's no water. There's no water. They hit all the main water tanks. We have some bread. The bread is hard. We have some - what do you call it, lunch meat, some boxed lunch meat. That's it. We don't have that much food here.

If it stays like this for another two days, our food resource is finished, medication is finished. (If) the army gets in here tomorrow, (it) is over.

No one house has been hit here. All of the houses have been hit here. Not one house has survived the attack.”

February 8

Danny holds another set of rocket shells in his hands. They're all over the place. It has become as common as any other object to be found on the street. The shell is what remains after a bombardment and an onslaught that leaves buildings shattered and families in tatters.

Blood stains the streets red.

And in Danny's eyes nobody is safe. At any minute, at any given time, families fear they could be next.

"Homs is terrible. They're doing a massacre. They're getting the Syrian army; they're surrounding this whole area.

They're surrounding the whole area with army troops and tanks and anti-aircraft. They've been bombarding us from 5 a.m. with all kinds of rockets."

The sights, the sounds, they're all becoming too common, Danny says. Things nobody should see are now a daily part of your routine should you choose to go outside. It's so bad, he says, that he'd even support U.S. military intervention if it meant the horrific acts could stop.

"Women and children have got used to seeing bodies in the street and blood in the street and body parts. We are asking for help.

We are asking the U.N. to please do something about this. We don't care if American forces occupy us. It doesn't matter.

We want any source to come in here and help us."

His cries for help grow louder each day as the violence becomes harder to handle. He talks about a mortar that he says landed on a house and killed a young child.

"His brain came out of his back of his head. This is how they're living.

Eight-year-old and 9-year-old children have to run to get out of the streets. Why do children have to live like this?"

And the streets aren't a better option, Danny notes. It's just as dangerous to even peer outside. He believes government forces are "targeting human beings" at every corner.

"There's snipers. There are snipers all around this area on the long buildings. You could hear them. Anyone who crosses the street could get shot.

I'm going to leave the house in half an hour. We're making our own way between buildings so snipers can't shoot us. This is the way we're trying to live. I'm a human being trying to live, and this is how I'm living.

I have been in this revolution from the beginning. This is a feeling you can never express. My friends, 10 of them died right in front of me because I couldn't take them to the hospital, because I couldn't move them from the streets. We're going to keep on to the end."

February 7

The crisis for Danny and others has become even more personal. Now, even their homes aren't safe, he says.

"What the army is doing is going into civilian houses even if the civilian is still living there. They take the houses, and they break wall by wall so they can move from building to building.

They don't move in the street because the free army is protecting these areas. What the Syrian army is doing are going in buildings, breaking wall-to-wall to go from building to building."

And places that they might go to seek help are being hit too, Danny says.

"They're hitting us with anti-aircraft tanks. Four have been shooting at buildings. Tanks, with shells, the army's been shooting with mortar bombs and rockets like yesterday as well.

(We have) only one hospital. No one can leave. No one go in.

As usual, no doctors can leave. No doctors can come in. They shot at Red Cross ambulance today."

Adding to the trouble of what's happening Syria is the lack of access to a private hospital that used to help perform surgeries and treat the wounded, Danny says. It is off-limits for residents like him and his friends who have been injured.

"The army took it, and it's become their barracks. They're sitting there. The army is posted in that hospital. Before they went to that hospital, they hit the operation room while doctors are doing operations. They kicked the doctors out of the hospital and all of the nurses out of the hospital and left all of the people in there.

Now the Syrian, Assad army are living in that hospital. If we want to take bodies to any government hospital ... you come out with injury in the head or leg, you have injury in head or you're taken by security forces and tortured to death, or they let you bleed to death."

Those descriptions are horrifying to think about. But something that haunts residents in Homs and other cities even more is what the real true toll may be when this all ends.

"Well, what has happened in Homs, we have for the last six months is massacre.

People are saying 6,000 dead, 7,000 dead. Our promise is more than 40,000 people dead.

Everyone who's missing, dead."

February 6

Danny reports that shelling of cities and attacks on the people of Syria continue to intensify. The gravity of the situation becomes more apparent as he sees the direct impact on the people of Syria. On this day, Danny is at a field hospital in Baba-Amr.

"Look at the bodies, dead bodies.

These are rockets. We've got more than 30 people dead and hundreds of injuries, look all dead bodies all over the place. These are all dead bodies. We're not animals. We're human beings. We're asking for help. We're asking for your help.

They're hitting us with rockets. They've been hitting us for four hours now. They're going to kill us all if you don't help us. They'll kill millions, and no one will find out about us. Please, someone, help us."

February 5

The violence is terrifying. Nobody knows when something bad might happen and if the violence will hit their family on that day, Danny says.

“You don't know if the rocket's gonna come in your living room or in your kitchen. It's not easy if someone loses their kid. I saw mothers crying today, that mother lost her 4-year old girl, and her 6-year-old girl lost her left eye.

That's not something easy. Everyone's becoming used to death here.

Blood in the streets. People think our blood is just like water."

He, like others, is concerned about the growing violence and expressed frustration about the lack of support from the United Nations after Russia and China vetoed a resolution that would have put pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

 "The Assad army, they're not targeting one little place. They're not targeting someone they want. They're targeting everyone. It's randomly bombarding. They're just doing it randomly. They've never done this.

This is what the U.N. did. If it wasn't for the U.N., they wouldn't have did this. The U.N. gave them the green light yesterday. It gave them the OK to kill more. If the U.N. had done something about this, this regime would be a little bit scared."

The dispute over whether the U.N. should intervene or if the issue should be handled by the Arab League has been debated inside and outside the country. For Danny, the U.N. was seen as a last hope to help rescue the people of Syria. He fears what message that veto sent the al-Assad regime.

"We didn't want the Arab League. We wanted the U.N. to take control. And the U.N. abandoned the Syrian people, and we have no one now.

How are the Syrian people going to defend themselves? And now the Assad army has the OK from the European countries in the U.N. to hit as hard as they want."

There is also a frustration, he says, that perhaps countries have come out too late to put pressure on al-Assad. When they have, it has mostly been in grandiose words, not action. And that action, Danny says, is what is needed to stop senseless deaths and tragic and brutal beatings taking place across the country.

"Syrian people, we want to see actions. We don't want to see talk. We're really tired of talk and talk and talk and talk. We see no actions at all. The Syrian president still has his legitimacy. Until now, no country said that this president lost his legitimacy. Until now.

 Why does he still have his legitimacy? After all the killing he did, after all the raping of women, after all the children we've got dead here, he still has got his legitimacy. Until now.

Everyone's talking - while everyone's talking, every second, someone's dying here. It's becoming a normal number. There's 80 dead today, 100 dead tomorrow. These are human lives here. This is a humanitarian - they're not animals."

For many citizens like Danny, those numbers aren't just statistics. They are people. They are neighbors. And they should not be dead.

"I saw really horrible things I'd never seen in my life. Kids in the hospital, a kid with his whole jaw gone.

A little girl, a kid, she's 4 years old, she's dead. Her sister, 6 years old, she lost her left eye, and her mother is in intensive care.

This is nothing - what I saw is nothing. This is all around Homs."

soundoff (559 Responses)
  1. Olla

    For all of you who are saying "It's not our job to help" I have a question for you. Why did the US and Europe answer the call to help in Libya? Is it because they have oil and Syria does not? The US helped The taliban when they were fighting Russia, they helped Sadam Hussien reach power, and then they helped Kuwait when he fought with them. It looks like we only become humanitarians when Oil is involved.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Your link between the Taliban/Russia and oil is a bit shaky... Actually it is completely disconnected.
      France and the UK were the main driving force with Libya, plus Russia and China abstained in the UN vote.
      The vetoed it this time... Like it or not however. Oil is extremely important to this nation. If supplies disappeared tomorrow the nation you know would be crippled on so many levels.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      I dont see a need tp help a revolition steered by a few who seel power themselves. Amercans can not gurantee that the opposoyion os any better. As matter of fact the opposition is the fight for power themselves. If not n then wait it out peacefully.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • GiuseppeB

      We have been saying it all along and will continue to say it. NOT OUR PROBLEM. The SYRIANS chose Assad now let them get rid of Assad. NOT OUR PROBLEM

      February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oil or No Oil - the answer is still the same...

      The bigger question is how NATO and/or the US can help in a situation that is (at best) a fight between cultures without doing even greater harm than what is being done now. Keep in mine, Gaddafi couldn't organize much of a comprehensive military defense against insurgents. Assad's military is well organized and very professional. They would be a very difficult battlefield opponent. Finally – there's the question of outcomes. If we did intervene, what then? Who would take over. The Muslim Brotherhood? Hammas? No thank you.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bo dean

    Its the New world orders plans of de-populating the planet... seems to be working to their advantage...

    February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Olla

    I agree with you, Oil is important to this nation. So let us call it as it is. Lets not say we went to Iraq because we want to spread democracy, we all need to know the truth we don't care who has a democratic country or not, we went there for the Oil, we did the same when we went into Afghanistan, they have oil and a ton of other natural , precious recourses. I hate the idiots that say we went there because they attacked us, or because we want to spread democracy.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Well we went into Iraq because they invaded Kuwait... we were then left there fro 12 years enforcing a no fly zone at great expense. Most nations (not just Bush) thought he had WMD's... that was why for 10 years we had Saddam playing games with UN inspectors. If Saddam hadn't invaded Kuwait that who process would never have gotten started. No one had any issues buying oil from Saddam. So its not like the invasion scored us MORE oil. Its the same oil as it was before. Afghanitan is a hole. What resources?? Do you mean Opium? That and rugs is all that comes out of there. We are there because the Taliban supported Al Qaida. If AQ had been centered in Yeman, we would be in Yeman..

      February 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAKH

      I am Syrian and i respect the Syrian Army.
      let me understand this, opposition want to get the power, and they are willing to use NATO and foreign forces to destroy the country as a price of getting the power. opposition has her armed group which consists of terrorists, thugs and smugglers . so if they decided to fight the government, why they are crying when the government kick their asses

      February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • cee

      I'm so sick of this talk about oil! What oil did we get from Iraq? iraq is in control of the Iraqi oil fields and put them out up for bid to countries not aligned with the U.S. We also didn't invade Iraq to spread democracy you just made that up yourself.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Fern Baum

    It is Srebrenica and Sarajevo all over again. We learn nothing from history. What a sad statement on society when we all watch the death and do absolutely nothing.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Throw your boots on and go help. Just don't ask my children to do it for you so than you can feel good.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GiuseppeB

    1. Not our problem. 2. No Syrians are named Danny. 3. This is phony

    February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olla

      Hey Guiseepe.1.) His name is Danny, His father is Syrian and his mother is English. 2.)You sound super ignorant.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GiuseppeB

    This is fake. Someone wrote this sitting in a cubicle in the USA.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jlnsvfx

    Sad, sad, sad, pathetic,and disgraceful – we are all such cowards. So they think that the woman, children, and the elderly are going to rise up and take supreme power in Syria? That they are going to be the next dark force we will face? Someone please bring some sanity and courage to the world! We need the aliens.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I think it is the guys dressed in civilian clothes with assault rifles that the Syrian Army in interested in... Maybe they should get some informs to distinguish themselves from the populace. That is why there are rules like that in war, so armys don't kill civilians by mistake as often... even the US colonials managed to find uniforms...

      February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hera

    Wealthy Arab countries should move in to help in Syria, this is not the problem of the US.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAKH

      all this arab countries are not able to stand against Syrian Army

      February 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      NAKH... With all due respect...I think the Saudis would do just fine.... Syria couldnt even protect itself from Israeli bomber strikes on its reactor. If they can get Turkey and Jordan to help out all the better....

      February 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tbone

      I agree 100% and I am voting for Ron Paul...!!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Tbone... my thoughts as well.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Olla

    Yes Opium is a precious recourse, have you heard of the drug shortage in this country? Believe it or not Opium isn't just for junkies it is used to make narcotics and other pain medications. Afghanistan is also rich in gold and silver and other minerals. There are Billions of dollars to be made from Afghanistan.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Olla

    Hera – Wealthy arab countries like Saudia, Qatar, Kuwait, Emerets, dont have a military. They hire US troops. They all have US stations in their countries protecting them in exchange for oil. So when you call on oil rich nations to help, you are calling upon your own military

    February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hera

      This is not the problem of the US, for years we've heard "death to America" from the people of "the region". Now is the time for Arabs to step up and help their Arab brothers. No American should be put at risk to help Syria.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      The Saudis have spent billions building a military. That is untrue. Although they would prefer to have American blood spilled rather than Saudi blood.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vince

    Why does CNN feel the need to blur the pictures of the dead bodies?
    Who are you to limit the truth? Show the truth. You are a new organization. Be honest with everyone and show the horror that is occurring in Syria. I want to see the truth and so does the world. Be honest about the grotesque nature of the Syrian Government. It is war, show it for what it is.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. melissa

    People are hurting yet we sit here and judge weather it is real or not. Who r u to judge weather this is a legit blog. U fools they r crying out for help and no one does anything but say that's so sad and turn away. Our pathetic excuse of a government wont help something must b done.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Well if you are asking me whether I would be okay with sending my children who are serving in the military then yes. I would demand to know what is real and what is propoganda. No one is stopping YOU from getting up and buying a ticket to go help the resistance.... a little more personal when you life or the life of those you love is on the line.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tom

    I'm not sure what to make of this. If the regime is intent on stamping out opposition, how is he managing to post things on you tube and not be targeted? I seem to remember something like this happening in the Iraq invasion of Kuwait and it turned out to be a PR stunt. to gain world sympathy. Just hard to know what's real. Because it's on the Internet does not mean that it is! I hope that it will be resolved soon without drawing others into the conflict.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAKH

      do you know that most of the reports were taken from what so called "eye witnesses " anonymous people. A lot of these videos are fabricated but the media insist to show one side of the story

      February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      so NAKH... why do we not see reporting from the other side? Even the US army reported on engagements with insurgents in Iraq...

      February 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NAKH

    Brian, with due respect, Saudi forces are week, they have weapons but cowered soldiers. two years ago , around ten saudi tanks with their soldiers were captured by around 10 men from Yaman when these tanks approached Yaman.
    Syria didn't respond to Isreal not because it is weak, but because it wasn't the right time to respond. Trust me in these, NATO, USA, and all arab countries are not able to attack Syria for many reasons. that is why they are supporting the armed group and trying to provoke a civil war.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Not going to say you are incorrect... because none of know the entirety of the situation... all we have are our own theories on what is happening. I believe there could be outside forces directing the revolts, this is nothing new and it is done often. The unknown is the players. Syria is going to be protected by Russia which is going to make the UN worthless. So the only option would be for the US to intervene... which in my opinion is the whole reason behind articles like this... to stoke the fires in the US... make people demand to do something... I am not buying it, at least not now. As far as who is tougher or weaker... hey, we all cheer for our teams right?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bsw54

    It appears that the piece aired today may have been partly staged. The left wall of the building that allegedly contained parts of two bodies is anchored with a cable on the inside of the building that is attached to what use to be an interior wall. Not saying there is no harm being done. Just saying that what you see may not all be real. Just saying.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Please go back to watching Fox News.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
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