Filming Homs’s horrors
President Bashar al-Assad’s assault on Homs continues, and the world has watched it unfold in real time. For the past week, activists have uploaded gruesome videos of indiscriminate shelling and civilian shelling that has given viewers worldwide a ground-level view of the destruction of Syria’s third-largest city. Danny Abdul Dayem, a British citizen of Syrian ...
President Bashar al-Assad's assault on Homs continues, and the world has watched it unfold in real time. For the past week, activists have uploaded gruesome videos of indiscriminate shelling and civilian shelling that has given viewers worldwide a ground-level view of the destruction of Syria's third-largest city.
President Bashar al-Assad’s assault on Homs continues, and the world has watched it unfold in real time. For the past week, activists have uploaded gruesome videos of indiscriminate shelling and civilian shelling that has given viewers worldwide a ground-level view of the destruction of Syria’s third-largest city.
Danny Abdul Dayem, a British citizen of Syrian descent, has been one of the most prominent activists to document the assault on the city. He is a former business management student who, during the past year, has made delivering aid and supplies to protesters his sole profession. He has been a resident of Syria since the 1990s, when his English mother converted to Islam and married his father.
Dayem was shot in August when standing on a Homs street corner – the bullet, he said, went in his waist and came out his back. "A car came by and threw a grenade, which I actually thought was a firework. So I looked at my friend and told him, ‘there’s not even time for that kind of stuff,’" he told the BBC. "The car parked right behind me, two meters between me and the car, opened the window and started shooting. I actually didn’t feel the bullet at first."
After fleeing with his family to Cairo and then London to recuperate, Dayem is now back in Homs to cover what has been the worst assault since the outbreak of unrest. He has uploaded a series of videos to his Youtube channel showing the destruction of the city. "Is this what the U.N. is waiting for, until there aren’t any more children left?" he says in the below video, while standing over a dead child killed in a mortar attack.
Dayem’s videos also track the rapid deterioration of life in Homs. While his recordings in late January show celebratory anti-Assad street demonstrations, his reports during the past week have grown increasingly urgent and outraged. "This is the life we’ve gotten used to: Rockets, bullets, killing children, dead in the streets, body parts," he said in the below video, reportedly filmed in the Baba Amro neighborhood of Homs, as a building burned behind him and a rocket crashed in the distance. "Why isn’t the world helping us? Where is the humanity in the world? Where is the frickin’ U.N.?"
With only a few foreign correspondents being smuggled into Homs, the reports by Syrian citizen journalists has become an increasingly vital source of news about the unfolding destruction of the city. It’s dangerous work: One of international news networks’ primary sources of news for events in Homs, Mazhar Tayyara, was killed by government shelling in the al-Khaldiya neighborhood of Homs in the early morning hours of Feb. 4. Tayyara, a 24-year old who went by the moniker "Omar the Syrian," was the fourth citizen journalist killed in Syria during the past four months, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Another of those four, Basil al-Sayed, was shot and killed in December at a checkpoint at Homs, while recording security forces opening fire at protesters. This is the last video he filmed.
But despite the risks, such reports have been one of the Syrian opposition’s primary tools to spread its message. Another citizen journalist, Khaled Abou Saleh, made waves when he confronted the head of the Arab League observer mission in Syria, Gen. Mustafa al-Dabi, in the streets of Homs. In the video below, he implores the Arab League to stop the killing. In other videos, he is seen delivering a speech to an anti-Assad crowd and carrying the lifeless body of a young girl reportedly killed in Homs on Feb. 5. In the absence of sufficient arms to challenge Assad, these Syrians have only their video cameras.
David Kenner was Middle East editor at Foreign Policy from 2013-2018.
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