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. D_NYC

    CNN PLEASE STOP THIS EXCESSIVE PROPAGANDA ABOUT SYRIA!!! The problem is that we Americans forget way too fast! People in Syria where clapping, dancing, cheering and burning American flags as the WORLD TRADE CENTER collapse with almost 3000 people inside... Let them solve their own issues. We are not in position of helping anyone and dealing with another WORTHLESS WAR to benefit people who will later stick their middle finger in our faces and call us a bunch of IMPERIALIST and INFIDELS! Do not waste MY TAX DOLLARS WITH ANY ISLAMIC COUNTRY... NOT WORTH IT... Not even a penny!

    February 9, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey Lentini

      Ok so I some what agree with the "statement" your trying to make. However, what does ISLAM have to do with anything in this matter??? Stop being ignorent and realize ISLAM has nothing to do with any of these issues in the world.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Al

      When will the United States say enough is enough and actually do something about this crisis. How many more people have to die? The United Nations needs to seek a warrant for assad's arrest for WAR CRIMES and then they have a legitimate reason to go after him and it won't matter what china and russia think. Assad is a murderer and needs to be taken out of there by force. World Leaders go protect these people NOW, not later. As each day passes the blood is also on the hands of all the World leaders for standing by and doing nothing.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • JiminNM

      It is not America's job to do anything anywhere. The American Corporation has enslaved its people and wants to enslave the entire world.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Hah. Yeah your own government is exploiting your tax dollars enough! lol

      February 9, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      I hear your argument about the use of taxes. I think it's more of an allocation issue really. I certainly think that we need to do something. Are you certain that the kids, women and innocent people that are dying right now are the same people that burned down the American flags?? Or are the people that burned down the American flags the ones that are attacking the innocent people? I don't know, but don't be so quick to generalize. I think there are a lot of people here in America that hate the middle east and they have their reasons and there are people in the middle east that hate the USA and they have their reasons. I think just put the hate aside and see this for what it is; it is genocide and America needs to step up and do something about it right away. After all, the USA is a world power and needs for once to not only care about its self but actually about its image and do the right thing!!

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

    SupremeLeader;

    These days there is a camera on virtually every mobile phone and flash drives that can store dozens of gigs the size of a dime.. so no there is nothing fishy

    February 9, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • EG

      amazing it is

      February 9, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • EG

      its amazing!

      February 9, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Amanda St. Paul MN

    As much as I DO NOT want to see the U.S involved in any more foreign conflicts, I think a few strategically dropped bombs on Assad and his army are in order here. Anonymous perhaps, just a few "gifts" for Assad from a "secret admirer" for Valentine's Day. I feel horrible for the Syrian people, they have taken a pretty bad beating, and I would like to see them get some help at this point.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Drake

      Mandy as armchair general. Aw, how cute.

      Really toots, life (and war) are not that simple.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Amanda St. Paul MN

      Drake, first off, my name is not "Mandy".
      Second, I am not sure who the hell you think YOU are, or where you get off trying to dismiss me or anyone else. I have a very firm grasp on the reality of life and the impact of war, and how politics, diplomacy, and international conflicts work. I hardly think having an opinion on the situation in Syria is being an "armchair general". You sound like a self important jerk, and if condescension towards me is the best you can contribute, save it for someone else, I am not interested. Nice try at trying to make yourself seem smarter than the rest of us "Oh Wise One" (sarcasm)...

      February 9, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • EG

      its

      February 9, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • NO

      Amanda, how you would you like it if you're family died in 9/11, and then saw images of people around the world, including SYRIA rejoicing? Then, SYRIA wanted YOUR help? NO. This is a joke. Assad was elected. Whether rightly or not, it was an election. He went crazy. **** happens, it's THEIR problem. They need our help? Really? To then back stab us later and house terriorists? BS. I'm sick and tired of the US being everyone's DOORMAT.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • NO

      your*

      February 9, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Amanda St. Paul MN

      @No, I understand EXACTLY what you are saying, and I agree. I had PALPABLE hatred of Muslims for years after 9/11, and I can't say that all of those feelings of dislike and distrust have totally subsided. But at some point I realized that not every single person living in the MiddleEast hates us, and that there ARE people over there that want the same things we want, happiness, healthy families, a good life, and freedom. I can't tell you what to believe, but I have come to my own conclusions about the world and the people that live in it. My patriotism for MY nation, and the history of how we fought for, and won our freedom, inspires in me a weird sense of kinship with others trying to fight for theirs. I am torn about "ArabSpring", because since I was a kid, I have held a hatred and distrust for Muslims. But when I saw the people of Egypt and other nations raging against the machine, they had my respect. No matter if they believe what I believe or not, mass slaughter of citizens is wrong in my mind. I don't think every man, woman, and child living in that region of the world is evil, or hates America, and I will ALWAYS root for the underdog, EVERYTIME.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • NO

      Then maybe leave it to the UN or some other agency or WHATEVER. NOT US. We cannot AFFORD to get involved, and I'm using "afford" very loosely here. I live in a very, very high crime city. I've seen some messed up stuff. Do you know what would have happened if I got involved? I wouldn't be here right now. I don't live for myself, but for others. The United States cannot and should not intervene. It's not our problem, as messed up as it sounds. This is not us sending aid to Syria, because they were involved in a huge earthquake. We can't help rebels. We've done it before and FAILED MISERABLY AT IT. It's a damn shame that it has come to this, and I'm even shocked at myself saying not to help, but we, again, cannot afford it.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Hamish

    D_NYC:

    Sorry champ. You have no clue. The problem is these countries are no FANATICAL ENOUGH. Free Syrian Army = Al Qaeda. Same mob that threw that moderate Ghaddafi out. Who is in charge of Egypt? That general? No he made a mess in his pants and ran off.. Muslim Brotherhood is in town. USA/NATO/UK plan is complete Islamization of middle east

    February 9, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      "USA/NATO/UK plan is complete Islamization of middle east"

      That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Hands down.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • NO

      Hamish, seems like you're the real "champ" here. Run by that me again? Someone's confused here.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Outsider75

    To some it up Mohammad, I am guessing you live here in America?
    That being said, the entire world relys on America for food, money, protection, etc.
    JObs are outsourced, people are hungry and dying here, and we should help another country that still hasn;t learned how to live civily?
    Give me a break. If you don't like it here, or believe in what America stands for, leave.
    Explain why we should put more lives in jeopardy, to help a country that in a split second, would turn its back on us.
    I am sorry for the innocent that have to suffer there, but it is their problem, not ours.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. Outsider75

    Amen, D_NYC

    February 9, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ralphie

    Let's all watch and do nothing – just like in Armenia 100 years ago, Nazi germany 70 years ago, and so forth. Human decency transcends politics and ideologies. We still haven't learned and never will. Maybe the world will end in 2012. We certainly try hard enough...

    February 9, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Uh, I am pretty sure a few countries responded to Nazi Germany. I am pretty sure I read something about it in the papers.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dlws

    "Women and children have got used to seeing bodies in the street and blood in the street and body parts." And those bodies are almost always men's bodies, but that is not important. In the Misandrist States of America, men dying is not a problem, but females having to experience anything negative is horrible.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. Percy

    Why do these people want our help now as they have nothing but hatred for the USA in the past ? Sorry - I just DON"T buy it !

    February 9, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Hamish

      God pray for the significant Christian population of Syria when (only a matter of time now) Al-Qaeda forces (Free Syrian Army) takes over ala Libya.. how many churches are there in Saudi Arabia again?

      February 9, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey Lentini

      ??? Go read a book...

      February 9, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • ahmad dera'a

      who told u that we need ur help? only our god can help us

      February 9, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. Scottish Mama

    Head shot for Assad from his people. Sanctions will work if pressure is put on Russia and China also. Russia and Chinese people need to be in the streets yelling for the governments to do something about the killing.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. DO IT

    Syrias people should burn the whole city to the ground

    February 9, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tony B

    It is clear that CNN is pushing the U.S. to intervene militarily in Syria and working around the clock to get this done ASAP.
    Is the U.S. government on the same page with CNN?
    Is CNN implementing the agenda of some U.S. or non U.S. war hawks?
    Or is CNN just getting funded big time by the Saudis/Qataris who want to push their breed of people to take over the power in Syria?

    February 9, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      War is profitable for news media.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. stephen

    My 100% support ..... for staying out of it.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Scottish Mama

    I say run up to tanks, spray paint the visual on the tanks, and lodge metal plugs in them. These people are pleading for help. We should ask if the US or the UN can send in medical supplies.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • stephen

      Oh please. The closest you have ever been to war is CNN. Your "say" is drek. Go away.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. NO

    Today, they'll be asking for our help. Then, when we give them help, the next day, they'll start burning down American flags. "Please help us, America!" That's all I ever hear. Then what? NOTHING. "I hate you American and your stupid foreign policy. You suck, America!" So sick and tired of people who criticize and hate America, and then begging at the mercy of the USA later on. BS. You put Assad in. If this happened in America, will the Syrians or ANYONE come in to help us? Yeah, sure.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Outsider75

      I completely agree
      They use America in any way they can, and in the very next breath they preach their hatred for us.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Not everyone in Syria hates America. Do not generalize. As much as Americans are brain washed by propaganda in their own country so are Syrians. In fact, majority of the middle east is either under the poverty line and/or uneducated so they are much easier to brain wash. This does not take away that they are human beings. We at least share the same species. We should at least give a damn about the lives lost and try to help in any way possible not just sit back and do nothing because once upon a time some people in the Middle East burned the American flag. Did you stop and ask yourself why the media made such a big deal about this? They did because the Bush administration wanted to instill hatred in every American against the middle east so that every American feels it is justified to go to war. It's all propaganda at the end. Some are better than others. I am not saying that I agree with the mentality of the Middle East. But put all hatred aside and look at what's happening there: it's genocide. You can't possibly say it is right or feels good to just sit back and do nothing. I think as a civilized nation, the American people should put pressure on the government to help the Syrians. We are one of the most powerful nations in the world and we are held at a higher standard. Let's act the part.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
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