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. arpad

    muslims slaughtering muslims is a very ggod thing for the rest of us. God speed.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey Lentini

      ISLAM RULES!!! and you my friend have no clue what you're talking about. I recommend that you go read a book or two about ISLAM and revise what you wrote. Genious!

      February 9, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • MartinD

      Funny, I say the same thing about Christians. (Sarcasm added.)

      Do you realize how preposterous and ignorant you sound?

      February 9, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • FifthApe

      You are a pathetic human being. Sick.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • FifthApe

      Joey: Islam is a delusion just like ALL religions.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      On the contrary, NOT a good thing.

      Apart from human suffering, the killing in the middle east serves only to unify Muslim interests not separate them. War breeds solidarity if only because the last group standing is of one mind. Peace breeds political indifference.

      If you would keep Muslims at odds with one another you would support peace between them. Divide and conquor is best attained by peaceful means not by war. Muslims are real people, not animals. They have feelings and fears and when attacked will band together if only out of a sense of self-preservation.

      The problem is that the fools who direct American foreign policy are primarily interested in economic gain, not the best interests of America. American hegemony is more important to them than peace.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Greg


    Find an alternative source for your news, different from CNN – American's State Run television.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. ahmad dera'a

    u all r stupeds u can not differntiate between syrian regime an syrian people

    February 9, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • NO

      Syrian regime=problem of the SYRIAN PEOPLE. GO HOME.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Carol

      Don't like the truth, then go home and help YOUR fellow man, woman and child

      February 9, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      Both the government and the people despise us and our way of life, so from the US stand point, the difference is academic.

      We're tired of this trap. Now it's "help us", but if we did, in 5 years it would be "death to the evil imperialist occupiers".

      There's a pretty clear track record.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. Brian

    Who is the Syrian army fighting?? No army can achieve a complete media blackout. one sided reports are no help. This isn't the first time civilians have been caught in the middle. I do not buy the story that the Syrian army is randomly shelling a city. At every level that just makes no sense. Also the rebels have said the Syrian Army is blasting wall in building so they can move building to building without entering the streets... well US forces used this same tactic in Iraq so they were not exposed to sniper fire in the open. So the Syrian army must fear this or they wouldnt bother.. this story has so many holes in it.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Hey Brian. You're a man who thinks on his feet, asks questions and arrives at independent conclusions. Very unusual habits in this day and age. I like your style.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. awad ritta

    what they have in syria terrorist not protesters we don't know why usa don't want to admit that ,. also what is happining in a very small part of syia in homs the syrian military fighting gangs and terrorists. 90 persent of the syrian people support president bashar al-assad . the media lying alot about what happining in syria espacially aljazera news why they are not showing what is happining in bahreen the goverment killing people too.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey Lentini

      how about you hop off syria's president and go read a book!

      February 9, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Welfare Wetback

    Muslims killing Muslims. I don't see a problem here?

    February 9, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Cogito

      Your name belies the true depths of your ignorance...

      February 9, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. ahmad dera'a

    sorry syrian regime are not the syrian people

    February 9, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. Russell

    The removal of the Asad regim should be a priority for the US and the free world because if this uprise in Syria fails this means that all the efforts in Lebya will be in vain and the Asad alliance with Iran will be stronger than ever and this will surely cause war in that part of the world to be unstoppable.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Syria is not Libya. Russia has their back. Invading Syria will have a huge geopolitical backlash. Not willing to sacrifice yours or my child for that venture. Not when the complete picture isn't even being reported.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. Richard

    Can't tell the game plan without the players. The American press won't publish the list as it can be interpreted as subsversive.

    Assad: actively supported by Russia, China, Iran and Lebanon, this includes moral, political and military support.
    Rebels: actively supported by France, UK, US with Israel as a silent partner. This includes political & military support. No moral support, though. Can't risk letting the American public or the Syrian people know who's really supporting the rebels and why.

    The object of the game is political control of Syria for the purpose of all sorts of mischief against Iran. The Assad supporters know this. The Syrian and American people do not.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Could be true... I would like to here more reports on who these armed rebels are... they are most definitely not peaceful activists

      February 9, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Russell

    The terrorist is the regim who kills children and women and who supported the terrorists in Iraq and encouraged them to kill Americans .

    February 9, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. ahmad dera'a

    to all american people i wnna just remember u wt u done 4 muslims in Bosnia? the american army fight 4 them wt the american army done 4 afganstan and iraq? u r the people of laies

    February 9, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • The Pickle Man

      Oh so now you expect unilateral military action? Why is it our responsibility to do this? Is the Arab League completely toothless? Besides, our going in would only make matters worse. Assad has friends in Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow–nuclear friends–who would be upset by our intervention to the point that their proxies could cause more trouble elsewhere. Syria's problem would become Iraq's and South Korea's and India's problem as well.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. DeeNYC

    How long before this activist gets shot?

    February 9, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. Russell

    Civilians have not been caught in the middle ,they are deliberately killed by the syrian regim forces.Watch AL JAZEERA ENGLISH TO GET THE REAL FACTS.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I also see pictures of mobs of people in the street for funerals... Doesnt add up to the "we can't even walk in the streets reports" also if an army armed with machine guns wanted to kill unarmed civilians it the body count would be in the 100's of thousands... per DAY!

      February 9, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • The Pickle Man

      This. Al Jazeera English really is a better news source. But hey, CNN has links to Sports Illustrated, so i like to swing by.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bails

    I am between a rock and a hard place with my feelings on this. Danny, your story horrifies me, and makes me want my country to help. Knowing full well that if we do, we do so knowing that you burned our flag and danced in the street on 9/11. And knowing full well that should you overcome this horrible regime, you may very well do the same thing again. God teaches me to love all mankind. But this one is hard.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • mansoury

      the shelling and killing is not fake, watch some reason news and you will see real people getting blown up and killed daily..enough with the political filtered cleaned up non graphical crap news the media here shows us..watch real happening news on aljazeera english and make up your own mind who is who.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. dhanuw

    USA creates internal problems in countries that are not their allies. USA manipulates and provides funds and arms to rebels in these countries to create havoc in those countries. Once they manage to create disturbances in these countries... media takes over to tarnish the image of these governments.
    USA must stop this cowardly act on other countries in the name of humanity!

    February 9, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • The Pickle Man

      Yeah, and Jews did 9/11. Am I right?

      February 9, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      Are you kidding? This is the latest manifestation of Sunni imperialism and intolerance. They were persecuting everyone who doesn't conform to their religious beliefs long before the United States existed.

      Sunni Islamic militants are what's behind the civil war, not the CIA or Mossad.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
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