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

    We all worry for our children and we want to protect our children. Just as the parents of the syrian children worry for theirs. The facts need to come out, we have been in the dark for too long. The only thing that keeps this economy going and the US dollara above water is our military power. The only reason the dollar didn't sink yet is because we protect the world's oil reserves and therefore, force the world to buy barrels in US dollar. If it were Europe protecting the oil we would all have to buy in Euro and the dollar would have sank long ago, and the usa economy would have sank to last place. That is why war makes our economy stronger.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      People don't use the dollar because of the military... they use it because the US is the largest economy in the world. We buy more oil. Oil is traded on a global market. Very little middle east oil comes to the US. However if it were shut off, the price on the global market would skyrocket... and we would all be effected. War helps an economy because the governments borrow money to fight them.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • DeeNYC

      Stop taking women and children to the streets in the line of fire and maybe they won't get shot and killed. Nothing a muslim likes more than to use his family as shields then cry about how they are killing their women and children.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • rednip

      It's always about oil for American reactionaries and their fools.
      They do not understand anything about world markets, human aspirations for freedom, a desire to live in peace, nor the nature of religious belief of others. One shouldn't waste their time spouting out a mixture of the non-sense heard on talk radio or Fox News as it dumbs down the conversation.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      rednip.. perhaps instead of attacking the people making a statement you should make a counter statement... because as it stands, you dumbed down the conversation.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NAKH

    if you want the truth about what is going in the world, just check the global research website.

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

    “'The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history." (George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair, 1903-1950.)

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


    February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Olla

    Mary if its not your fight, then why do you give Isreal 3 billion dollars a year of our money? Or is Isreal your fight?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hera

      What does Israel have to do with Syrians killing Syrians? This has the look of a civil war, it is a problem of Syria. If Syrians need help the Arabs should step up. The are 300 million Arabs and over 1 billion Muslims on the planet that's more then enough people to deal with one Arab dictator.Or perhaps China will step up. China has a major military and is an emerging economic power why aren't Arabs asking China for help?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      WE GIVE israel this money becuse Jews run the politics of this economy making this a major story for Americans to buy into this propoganda. Americans need to buy into greem emergy to stay out of wars. As China and India use more energy the world will be jocking and taking sides and changing sides for profit

      February 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. James

    This is for CNN. Why are you broadcasting this as if the U.S. should do something. My two sons have spent a number of years in both Iraq and Afghanastan. One son served seven tours the other 2 needless to say the older is a bit spent. Does anyone recall the fake stories in Kuwait this sounds so much like it. We cant go in nor should we go in its not our fight. I am sure CNN can hire Black water to assist. So lets chill with the news. Better yet why not ask those Israelies to do something as far as I am concerned the U.S. has wasted enough.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      With you on this... and for the same reasons, although Israel should definitely stay out of it. That would be a sure fire way to get us involved...

      February 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alex

    When I see "Danny" look at the camera and say, "We are dying here. Where is America?", I find it difficult to sympathize when I know how much muslims hate, and want to kill, us and see them burning our flags. Why SHOULD we help them? Let their Arab allies come to their aid...we have enough problems of our own.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ydde

      Because if we don't do it than who will? Everybody views America as the big brother (ironically) for his military capabilities ever since the Cold War ended. Even though we don't always win every battle we always end up wining wars and stoping others through out history. Besides we all are humans and should look after one another regardless our differences don't you think?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Olla

    Believe it or not, Isreal actually wants Assad to stay in power. For those of you who don't know Assad is not a Muslim, he is an Alawite. For fourty years the Assad regime has protected the border with the Golden heights and Isreal. It's crazy to have an Alawite (3% of the population) rule a majority Sunni nation (70% of the people) that would be like having a Muslim president in the United States.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAKH

      Finally you showed your ugly face. Alawite are Muslims weather you like it or not. All what happening is because of some racist like you are trying to increase hate between different sects in Syria. I am Sunni by the way so don't play this ugly way. don't forget that the majority of the biggest two cities in Syria" around 60 % of the population" , Damascus and Aleppo are sunnies and supporting the Assad.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I believe this whole Israel supports Assad is a bit laughable, and you are not the first to bring it up. I don't however discount that Israel would prefer Assad remain in power, because the alternatives may be worse. I think the root of the statement however is mostly to drum up support, because no one like Israel in the region. The are the country it is easy for them to all stand together and hate.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Does not matter what sect Assad is...the people in whose pockets he puts money, will always support him. Politics everywhere is corrupt. This is Syria's fight, and the matter has to be resolved internally no matter the outcome.....so stop trying to hijack this forum with your comments! Maybe you should go to Syria and fight for what you believe.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hera

      As has been mention Alawites are Muslim. Syria is an ally of Iran. Iran is an enemy of Israel.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ma & pa

    What is true? Homs WAS an island of peaceful co-existence in a deadly repressive country. Slaughtering tyrants hate the self-motivated peaceful family because it shows it shows how good the world could be without tyrants....Is satellite spying technology blocked over these countries so we can't SEE what's going on? Is this the scene which has been described for 2000 years as the tipping point violence? EVERYONE, agree to stop the bus before it is driven off the cliff.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hera

      Wasn't Homs the site of an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood that was put down by Assad's father? In that case over 20,000 were killed. Don't recall the Arab world or anyone else stepping in to help.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ChrkeePrde

    Sad sad sad... we're watching a massacre here and letting China and Russia have their corrupt and hypocritical ways.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Thalia

    I am so sorry that this is happening to innocent women and children, these are the civilians that are victims.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary


      February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Olla

    It is a fact, he is an Alawite. The oppisition consists of Kurds, a few Alawites, Christians, Sunni, Shi'ites and Cercassions. This is not a civil war, this is a people uniting despite their differences to get rid of a corrupt regime. And stop missleading people, Alawites are not Muslim.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      "this is a people uniting despite their differences to get rid of a corrupt regime"

      That is what a civil war is....

      February 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hera

      Alawites are Muslim

      he Alawis, also known as Alawi Shias, Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group who are a branch of Shia Islam centred in Syria.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAKH

      99.99 % of the opposition are Sunni so dont lie. I am Syrian and i know that. the fact is Assad has the support of the majority whether you like it or not, and that is why he still in power. Damascus by itself can put him down if he lose support of the people.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GiuseppeB

    Danny the Syrian? This has fake written all over it. CNN thinks we're a bunch of sheep.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      Amen After Iraq 13 trillion dollar amd thousands of dead bodies over a lie .

      February 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jw

    People should help people whenever there is murder and true injustice. It is summed up in one principle: You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. Help them no matter what the cost, and God will give you a reward. Countries who are guided by this principle will step in. Those who aren't will not.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      There is murder and injustice everywhere in the world. Not willing to sacrifice our children to try to stop the unstoppable. This is a power grap in Syria, they are using the civilians as pawns to try to get the aid that the UN gave to Libya. See how that worked out? Now that we showed the world that if they murder some civilians we will grant aid. My bet is that foriegn fighters (mercs) are sniping civilians in order to gain these headlines.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Anybody willing?

    Surely some can put up some money for daring mercenaries to fly and bomb the Syrian army.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
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