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

    Giuseepe – Stai zitto, ho detto che lui e syriano/englese. Lui ha un madre Englese e si chiamma Danny, e vero, credami!

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

    Even youtube has more creditbility than CNN these days, full of oneside story, fake numbers fake pictures.

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

      And you know this because???????????????

      February 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • CNN unfair

      Your right. If you don't support the Democruds, your comments are deleted. No land of the free here.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • jj

      So give us the whole story then....please include the pics that are missing.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      "full of one side stories"?!?!? Why don't you tell us your secret to getting interviews with the Syrian military?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ReBemol

    The U.S. / NATO want more Saudi and Qatari funded bloodshed and destruction for Syria and Russia wants stability and smooth transition with reforms ... Syrian people are still strong behind President Assad and reforms for the following reasons:

    – The opposition leaders have major disagreement among them on how to govern Syria and which countries to ally with.

    – Unlike many Arabic leaders, President Assad does not flip flop politically and hence provide political stability for his country and the neighboring countries.

    – President Assad can unite all the ethnically and religiously diverse people of Syria.

    – Syrians have witnessed the failed western democratization attempt of Iraq and the fate of its Christians, Egypt Islamist take-over and Libya Al-Qaeda takeover and became immune to the war propaganda machine.

    – The Muslim Brothers who have hijacked the reform process think that by using a fear campaign and an armed rebellion to remove Assad they can win the heart of Syrians ... They are failing miserably fortunately for the Syrians.

    U.S. / NATO want to support war fighting and chaos to either topple Assad and bring in the Islamists who have agreed to support their interests or continue the chaos until Syria is weaken and destroyed from within … The Russians and Chinese will not allow the U.S. / NATO plan to succeed …. It is a wrestling political match and it is hard to predict the winner or who is going to forfeit … I just hope that the super power nations will agree on one peaceful solution for Syria instead of letting this conflict become an ugly regional war that may lead to ww3.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAKH

      totally agree

      February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I seriously doubt this is being pushed by US or NATO. What is the gain? The US has had very little problems in dealing with Assad. Destabilization is far worse a problem for the US than funding a secret revolution.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • ReBemol

      Brian:

      For NATO involvement, please google: "NATO vs Syria" (an article in the American Conservative) and also google "british qatari troops Syria" for another article that was posted today.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Rebemol. Thanks for the sources... I have to be skepical of the article ( I am skeptical be nature)

      "Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases"
      NATO has no war planes... What country has every fielded their military planes without markings? Unless CIA of course. Where is the source for this data? What would be the legality for NATO? The have no UN mandate as they had in Libya or Serbia. No member nation was attacked....

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boris

      I agree with you. The US and its allies are not promoting democracy. CNN should stop the propaganda. The same methods were used in Libya, Ivory Coast, Iraq...etc
      The US and its allies support terrorism, genocides and crimes against humanity. Libya and Ivory Coast are the perfect examples. In Libya, NATO killed thousans of civilians and gave power to members of Al-Qaeda. In Ivory Coast, the US backed Ouattara, a mass murderer. Hillary Clinton was even there last month.
      Israel kills Palestinians every day but the US never condemns or takes actions against Israel. According to the US and its allies, does it mean the life of some people are more important than the life of others? does it mean that some civilizations are inferior to others?
      The world will be a better place the day western civilizations/nations stop developing a superiority complex.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Olla

    What has this world come to, this is not our problem, that is not our problem, we all live on one planet, when you see wrong you should fight for justice. It's discusting to see how many people say these are fake videos and pictures, that this is "their problem" or tell me to pick myself and go fight because I am expressing my opinion.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hera

      Why aren't you on your way to Syria to fight for the Syrian people? What's stopping you? Why do you ask others to take risks you will not take yourself?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Olla.. because it is far easier for a person to sit back and say someone else should go there and risk their lives. Or the lives of our children. Because what you are saying is exactly that. That I should allow my child to go die. That is what happens when you send forces. I am not convinced that this is not exactly what Assad says it is. A reletively small group of insurgents attempting to topple the government and take power... if 100,000 (not a tiny number) Americans revolted and attacked the government there would be thousands of deaths, would you support the US government representing 300 million being toppled?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bfd007

    Talk about WAG THE DOG ! Anything to get the cannon fodder of America to get behind another ILLEGAL war.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Olla

    Hera-
    I'm not part of the military, and guess what, when you sign up to join the military, you might have to go to war...what a concept?
    My tax dollars go to this govt. I should be able to express my opinion without being insulted by you.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAKH

      So Olla; if you are American, as a Syrian, i tell you don't put your nose in Syrian Matters. Fight for your rights in USA and leave us , the Syrians alone

      February 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • DocCutty

      NAKH, you blew it! Your paid job is to pretend you're writing from Ohio or Texas or something, and not fess that you are a paid tool of a murderer!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hera

      Even if you are not in the military it doesn't mean you can't buy a plane ticket and go on your own to support the Syrian people. As an American taxpayer I feel my tax dollars would be wasted in Syria as this is not our problem. However I do not oppose people such as yourself spending their own time and money to help the Syrian people.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Olla. Of course you have the right to voice your thoughts and you should not be insulted by anyone. I appreciate hearing other view points. However I have a slightly different view. My kids ARE in the military, they would be in harms way. It gets a little more personal as a result. So it is a valid question to ask before you say we should go, you should ask would YOU go? Would YOU lay down your life for this cause? Would you accept your children dying for this?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Olla

    Tom, I bet anything you wanted Sarah Palin to run didn't you?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Christian

    I agree with Vince. CNN Needs to show the truth. If the children and women of Syria are forced to see dead bodies lying all over the streets where their home are located, The people in the US can see them knowing that the danger is far from their homes. I am disbelief that 5 days of shelling have gone by, and all these countries, not only the US, are standing around just watching this horror.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NAKH

    Brian ; thank you for the good example: if 100,000 (not a tiny number) Americans revolted and attacked the government there would be thousands of deaths, would you support the US government representing 300 million being toppled?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DocCutty

    I don't think Olla is a Palin supporter. They won't send absentee ballots to Syrian government employees.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chivo11

    It's crazy over there & very very sad. Theses are human beings that are dying. They deserve to be treated with care & love, but they are not, mainly like dogs. We as Americans need to stand up all over the country & protest against the killngs & declair to have the Syrian president arrested for murder. I am a christian & I stand with the Syrian people who wish to be free. My heart & my prayers go out to u all , may peace come soon. Amen.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      The rebels are counting on that reaction... you are being played.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Olla

    Actually, I'm a pharmacist. But you know what , thats your opinion and I'm not going to insult you.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Olla

    Brian-
    God bless your children for serving! I can understand how you wouldn't want your children to go into a war zone. I am expressing my opionion. What is happening to those innocent civilians is wrong. I'm glad you can give and take, unlike a few on here that are biggots and rush to judgement.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Unfortunately civilians always suffer the most in wars... and if we went in still more would die. There are never easy answers..

      February 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Why not ask the Jews?

    They're right next door. They're civilized and western. They're armed to the teeth. They'll likely help any democratic movement that promises to support a Jewish state as a neighbor. All you have to do is get over your predisposed religious hatred and ask. What have you to lose.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      That would definitely bring both sides together in Syria... they would both join up and go to war with Israel. It would be a disaster. Not that Israel isn't capable, but there is nothing that brings Arabs together more than the hatred of Israel.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. nell

    The killings of innocent people in Syria is horrible and a travesty, but the U.S can't continually go into these other countries and fight against years of tyranny. This will be our war, our money, our dead, our debt.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
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