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. kevin

    Why aren’t we doing more to help Syria? Heck, that’s an easy one. Those lazy Syrians only produce 400,400 barrels of oil per day, which is insufficient to earn our love. Just like those lazy North Koreans who hardly produce any oil at all…you don’t see us offering military assistance to them, do you? If the Syrian people really want our help, they should have the common courtesy to produce 1,790,0000 barrels of oil per day like the Libyans did, or 2,399,000 barrels per day like the Iraqis did, or 2,494,000 barrels per day like the Kuwaitis did. That would earn our love, and military assistance.

    If the Syrian people are serious about wanting US aid, they’d better stop whining about it, and get to work producing more oil, narcotics, or Al-Qaeda #2s, which are the only things the US government gets excited about “investing” in.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • pofg

      what is sad is how inept the UN is. They want to send in monitors again?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You need to shut up! You don't live there! And, if the Syrian army gets to the houses, there won't be any oil left! It's the civilians who pump it out of the ground! If they all die, No more oil!!!

      February 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • CNNshill

      @Dave "If they all die"? ALL? Typical dangerous, inciting, rhetoric...

      February 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Anonymous

    So were willing to start a war in the middle east that lasts ten years and has cost us trillions, but ,just like in so many other cases, we refuse to assist the victims of a state run by a terrorist regime? Wake up America, we need to bring aid to our brothers.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pliny

      They are not 'my brothers'.

      They are arab-muslims.
      They are the people who flew airplanes into our buildings.
      They murdered 3000 of my countrymen.
      They are the ones who are silent as terror is commited again and again and again in the name of their religion.
      They are the ones who blame the west and the jews for their failed societies, their failed states, and their failed religion.

      They are not my brothers.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChrkeePrde

      Pliny, you are a sad sad strange little man, and I pity you. Now stop living in that big bubble of yours and take that branch off your butt. These are simple civilians, children... not Osama and his gang. Dummie.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pliny

      Hey ChrkeePrde,

      What did I write that is not the truth?

      If you want to turn the other cheek....then do so. Go wallow in political correctness.

      But I prefer to see the arab-muslims for what they are....cowards who attack the defenseless (as in 9/11 and countless other acts of terror that have been going on for DECADES).

      Ironically....you seem to be roused by just that trait...syrian cowards attacking defenseless syrians.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice of Thought

      So Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were totally legitimate Organizational head with peaceful intentions? I'm sorry, it just seems like the more we take out their trash, the more they hate us for it. You can't *give* someone democracy.

      Our country bled a bit for it, and it was good for us. Nobody got involved for the first couple of years in the revolutionary war and we came out a powerhouse for the ideals we earned with our blood to give us the respect and the dedication to the foundations of democracy. Take Iraq as a perfect example, Americans died for their democracy and break in the murder- counter murder cycle and now the Iraqis are willing to throw it away just so they can kill eachother in reprisal killings all over again. You never learn the value of anything if you never had to pay for it. So humanitarian aid, yes, and maybe a few refugee camps. But if they want military intervention, they have to ask their Arab league "brothers"

      February 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • sad people really are heartless anymore...

      well i guess they said america isnt allowed to help wow! they told them what to do and well they are not what i expected they would be if they had courage and wasnt heartless im sure they would be able to do something just gotta get things straight peop

      February 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pofg

    Has anyone heard from Danny today..Friday...His last post was over 24 hours ago.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chevyman

      I have not seen anything posted by him today. Worried about him.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • CNNshill

      "Danny" is a CIA asset and a propaganda agent.
      Danny’s first major appearance was on BBC News back in September.
      Since then he has appeared on just about every corporate media network
      on an almost daily basis imploring western powers to launch a military invasion
      to “help” the Syrian people.
      The corporate media has featured Danny’s interviews and You Tube videos,
      in which he shows dead bodies of Syrians allegedly killed by Assad’s forces,
      with very little if any qualification, largely presenting Danny’s unsubstantiated claims
      as gospel truth.
      Go out and do your own research and find out the truth...

      February 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. 4F

    Thank God our media is all over this Syrian genocide. The world is sitting back and letting this occur. Unfortunately the same thing the world did as the Holocaust was occurring years ago. Since the US has given up its position of world leadership under Obummer there is not much hope for the Syrian people.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice of Thought

      Yeah, because dying for another thankless job on the Middle east's behalf is such a great idea. Why don't you get up in the Arab League's business for not helping? their economies are steady and they haven't fought any foreign nations in a good while.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. billyjo

    It is time for the US to step in and supply them. I understand both arguments, though. On one hand, you have Afghanistan. We stepped in in '79, now they are using those same weapons against us. We do not want to trade one tyrant for another... HOWEVER if we do not do something, the whole region may be engulfed in war. If we act, we can influence the future direction this country will take and keep it from spreading to neighboring countries. If we do nothing, they will remain our enemy no matter the outcome. This is different from Libya. This is all an urban area. It involves more than just an air strike. The best thing to do is arm the Syrians with weapons used in Iraq (that we left over there) and humanitarian aid. We can't get into another war, mainly because Iran is our next war on the horizon. The Syrian people should be given the chance to change the regime, but not at the expense of American lives. I think the citizens of Syria need to be the ones to topple Al Assad and the ones to take pride in their cause.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brighter Bulb

      A war may be what that region needs, they don't like outside intervention in any way, shape of form, unless it allows them to carry out reprisal killings. They claim they want democracy, but what really will happen is we'll switch one dictator for another and the cycle continues because no system can restrain them except a very centralized and brutal power.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brighter Bulb

    It seems that the only people who are interested in starting another war front are the ones who don't have to fight it. If the world is so outraged at the UN's inactivity, what are THEY doing about the Syrian problem? Nothing, that's what. If we are going to spend American lives, we should at least get some thanks for it. Which is a pretty far cry from what we've gotten in the last three corrupt, despotic and abusive governments that we've taken down. It's time for someone else to step up to the plate. Why do we get blamed when Russia and China are condoning this crap after we've thrown just about every dollar available to fix that part of the world's problems, just so they hate us in the end.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ou812

    If not for the internet and instant communication all we would know is there was a uprising in Syria and who would care. Violence is a way of life in that region with so many groups grappling for power. Their ideology is about absolutes then compromise. So they pull on the heart strings of the west because they know we have compassion for the abused which they lack. Let someone else charge in for rescue for once and be hated later.

    February 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Soldierz

    I agree Sam on some things. I think this issue will never end! In the past the US has tried look at there hisotry. I don't think butting in with our military will do anything but make more of a mess and have more people killed! But I wouldn't agree we should sit and watch.

    February 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chicago Paul

    Shame on our governments by quietly allowing the Syrian regime murder thousands of innocents people.

    February 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bernie in SD

    Pathetic. The solders if the Syrian Army are 'just following orders". So were the Nazi s. A solder has a duty to refuse to obey an order directing him to kill civilians unless he is attacked by them. The entire Syrian Army and its government are guilty of crimes against humanity and they should be stopped by any means available including US unilateral intervention. What the hell is wrong with the people here that dont see this for what it is. Oh BTW for the jerk that was spouting off about 9/11 – quit believing in fairy tales our government had more to do with 9/11 than any Arab sitting in a cave in Afghanistan.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sad people really are heartless anymore...

    i guess people dont know the difference between people that are fighting and people that have no weapons to fight back.... yeah ive seen the pics of kids ...... its horrible i apollogize that my country cant see the difference in what they do i gue

    February 11, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sad people really are heartless anymore...

    a message to all countries .... fighters .... grow up...allready ...

    February 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kris

    That is not a Syrian Army, they are Private army of al-assad. all of you must do is to abandon your country cause it will be too late if you died. it just like repeating the history, so just leave the country cause uN will not help all of you there, they will only do actions if all of you were all dead, i think US president can't provide military support to the Syrian opposition due to this comming US presidential election, cause it will loose vote for him.

    February 12, 2012 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. zain

    I don't think unarmed people needs tanks , infantries or helicopters to attack them , because if they are not armed they wont be dangerous Therefore they wont require all these forces ... but the truth is that behind this crying guy and behind all of these faked images and videos there are thousands of armed terrorists with heavy guns shooting at army and security men, and if this was happening in any country around this world it will act like this and maybe with more Violence to achieve its citizens safety ... many people was killed in Homs city because they are from a specific Doctrine or denomination ... I know two brothers from my city which is near Homs ... they went to Homs three monthes ago to sell Water bottles ... they were killed Cruelly and they were sent to their parents chopped in bags ... only because they are from a different denomination .... many lanes in home are shelled with tens of mortars by this terrorists and no one talk about them , no media Documents this .... why ?

    February 12, 2012 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Greek American

    @Bernie in SD

    Fairy tales? You are the idiot and jerk if you believe in all the conspiracy theories that are out there about EVERYTHING, especially 9/11. You are a hypocrit spouting about others who "don't see things as they actually are." Let me guess, you also believe the govt killed Kennedy? Obama was not really born here? UFO abductions in your hick hometown? The moon landing was all actors on a Hollywood movie set? I could go on but you're a waste of my time. Go back to watching Jesse Ventura on 'Conspiracy Theory' or 'Decoded' so you can find outlandish explanations instead of "seeing things as they actually are."

    February 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
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