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. wmahoney

    the folks posting stories online need to vet or at least screen the ads before the main story. for example: the lead story today is homs amid siege...its a serious story, people are dying while we read and others are risking their lives to bring this information to us. before the cnn video a really stupid inappropriate expedia ad is aired...i mean really! just think about it for a moment! it demonstrates cnn marketing staff is out of touch with reality and the story.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. 2x Afghanistan Veteran

    Dear oppressed, I am a 2x vet of Afghanistan. I would gladly parachute into your country to assit. Unfortunitly I am no longer in the military and I feel our military is going to do nothing about this. We are to busy worrying about Iran and our own forces will most likely not be mobilized. More than likely we will send special ops into your land and arm you guys and start to train. I feel it will be to late. Stay strong Danny. You guys must find a tactical advantage. Do not lay down and die!!! Find the snipers map out where they are. Pass this info to The peoples armies. My thoughs are with you. Stay strong and see what your enemy is giving you. There has to be an opening or weakness somewhere.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. aurelius

    The West should continually remind the world, through the UN, or through bilateral talks, that Russia and China shared responsibility for what happens in Syria, for without their support, the current Syrian government wouldn't have dared carrying on those massacres.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      who cares what russia and china think? people are dying and begging for help. the U.S. is turning their back on human beings because russia and china say so? Disgusting!!! screw them! I am so ashamed and heartbroken that the so called greatest country in the world will sit back and be accessories to genocide (again and again). CONGRESS, STEP UP!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff

    Personally, i have trouble believeing any of this. As a syrian, who is pro assad, i have witness the masses cry out in support for assad and i think this is just a ploy forthe western media to destabalize syria

    February 10, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mom of Three

    The courage of this man is astonishing. And, like, him, I wonder why we choose to help some people and not others, i.e. Libya vs. Syria.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Harv

      Again, I ask why do we believe this "Danny"? Who is he? Who does he represent and why does CNN assume this is the only side of the story. Years of CIA work certainly makes one suspicious and wonders why Americans and their media is so gullible.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. Cat-Cat

    God we need you!

    February 10, 2012 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. Zero

    This is Terrible.
    No one knows what is even going on over there. The 1st thing that the Arab league should do is to send back the monitors to get a hold of this situation which will curb the violence. Let's not forget that there are two sides to this issue. The Free Syrian Army has been shooting and bombing security forces which is justifying Assad to send in the military to protect his people. Both sides hold some responsibility and as bad as Al-Assad is, i'd rather see a questionable Syrian regime in power than no regime at all. Those people will be much worse off is Syria becomes like Libya or Egypt.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rachel

    I cannot believe the world does nothing. Not just the US, the entire world. We are hearing people screaming bloody murder and still nothing. We are watching the Syrian government murder their own people . God help them and bring them justice

    February 10, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. freeafrica


    February 10, 2012 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  10. freeafrica

    the woman is saying that "no one can go out or go in" coz he would be shot by tanks, snipers, helicopters etc. But she or they could take 3 women out of shelled building and berried them. If they can't go out, how could they got the bodies and berry them. The only solution is to tell free syrian army to give up, since it cannot match the government forces. They sould give up their little game and hope, they won't have another Libya in Syria, the world powers have learnt a lesson and they won't allow that anymore. Dismantle ur so called "Free Syrian Army" and give up protesting, if Al-assad has to go, he will go, he is not there forever. Bring peace to Syria and forget the regime illusion.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Greek American

    This truly is idiocracy on here now. People of the USA, we do not own any of the oil in Iraq, nor did occupying the country help our gas prices in any way. In addition, the guy in this article is real. Just because people are walking the streets in one part of the city, doesn't mean that other parts aren't under attack. Furthermore, 9/11 was real and not caused by Jews, nor was it an inside job. In addition, many countries celebrated at our expense after 9/11 and some burned flags. Get over it!!! Finally, yes we really did land on the moon and NO, alas, aliens did not land at Roswell.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Curt

    Pretty messed up really makes you wish the United Nations chose this country instead of Libya... I think they are scared of looking like they are trying to take advantage of the country.... But the more the violence, the more it seems its just humanitarianism. For people hating on Muslims, A lot of black people, indeed from different countries e.g. Somalia are Muslim. I had a friend that was Somalian and Muslim he was a really polite person for sure, well maybe an awkward comment or two, like he said they think pork makes people crazy. But hey it does have the worst bacteria and parasites so anyhow I stopped eating pork, my friends call me Muslim I'm not though I do believe in Allah or God though. That's right I called them the same thing. Shout out's to Mohamed Mohamed.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Curt

      Really I heard momar gahdafi was an awesome leader, people got like a free house if they got married, gas is mad cheap... There is not interest on loans..

      I think the world banks wanted to pull the plug on those luxuries.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. sjdsh

    Watching CNN commentators explaining the situation in Syria to their viewers is hilarious. Its no wonder the average American is politically ignorant about the rest of the world, and allow themselves to be dragged into so many wars.
    They are a big bunch of mercenaries that have exploited the world,killed millions just for their greed.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. DR. PATHAN

    Its heart-breaking to be silent spectators over Syrian situation. In 1st place we r humans and not a mere sacrificial animals for political conspiracies. Should World leaders action be limited becoz of borders?. What makes sense to me is to feel wat a dying person is goin thru. Chinese version is hyppocratic and absolute nonsense. I dont think US alone has to take responsiblity. every1 who has human blood should takeup the cause n restore the humanity and values. Assad n china r selfish for their greed. Hope the dying get their basic right to live.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. trollattackforce

    Russia and China are very intelligent, They know that no matter what happens that the U.S. WILL get blamed for the massacre in Syria. and they will be the true hereos inside syria wheather the rebels get lucky or the most likely the gov't forces crush the terrorist trying overthorw a peacefull dictator. Bravo, russia and China, Bravo

    February 10, 2012 at 5:16 am | Report abuse |
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