Syrian Activists Live Stream Their Revolution

Feb 14, 2012
Originally published on February 15, 2012 6:45 pm

Syrian troops have fired rockets and mortars at neighborhoods in the city of Homs that have most fiercely resisted the government throughout the uprising.

Mainstream journalists are barred from entering Homs, so a team of activists decided to record the offensive themselves. The activists positioned their cameras atop buildings in the city. Each morning the view is blue sky, a minaret, a sea of rooftops. Then come the booms.

The offensive is mainly centered on the neighborhood of Baba Amr, which has seen an increasing resistance by civilians who have taken up arms and soldiers who have defected from the army.

Day in and day out, the video stream is up and running, recording the government offensive in real time. Then, last Thursday, a rocket hit the house where the activists were stationed.

The screen goes gray with smoke, but the camera keeps rolling. The picture of the rooftops eventually comes back into view. Activists call out to God as they discover the bodies of four women in the basement who were killed by the blast.

Twitter and Skype are a flurry of messages. "Did I just watch someone die?" one activist writes. The rockets keep falling, volunteers help the injured and the camera team hits the streets.

'You Don't Think About Your Safety'

Danny Abdul Dayem is TV-ready with his curly black hair, droopy eyes and flawless English. He records this indignant standup in front of five bloodied children who were injured by a rocket that day.

Dayem has become a regular face in the coverage of the bombardment of Homs. With a Syrian father and a British mother, he's the perfect mix of local and international. His videos have been all over the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera.

In one video, shot in a field hospital, Dayem walks through gruesome heaps of dead and injured people.

"We're not animals. We're human beings. We're asking for help," he says. "We're asking for your help. They're hitting us with rockets. They've not stopped with these for four hours now. They're gonna kill us all.

"If you don't help us now, they'll kill millions, and no one'll find out about us. Please, someone help us."

That same hospital itself was later hit by a rocket. The team immediately sent out a video of the aftermath.

Dayem recently left Homs and sat down for an interview. Before Syria's uprising, he studied business management. Now he's one of the most wanted men in the country.

"If they catch me, I'll be in pieces," he says. Still, Dayem says he'll go back to Homs soon.

"You don't think about your safety," he says. "You just think about, 'I'm going to do as much as I can before they get me. I'm going to do as much as I can before a rocket comes on me or lands on me.'"

Impact On Syrian Regime

Zeynep Tufekci, who researches the power of social media in the Arab uprisings at the University of North Carolina, says Dayem and the activists' work documenting the violence makes it impossible for the international community to stand by and do nothing. But, she says, it also could make it difficult for the regime to consider any kind of peace agreement.

"This kind of visual imagery of how horrific it all is might make it harder for the regime to negotiate something because they are probably thinking — and not all that incorrectly — that people are not going to forget this," she says.

As for Dayem, he says he hopes that once the Syrian revolution is over, he can just go back to being a regular guy.

"I just want to go back to my life — listening to music, seeing my friends — and forget about all this," he says.

But he acknowledges it might be a long, long time before he gets there — if ever.

Rima Marrouch and Lava Selo contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Correspondents gathering news of Syria's uprising face two hard questions every day. The first is what's happening. The second is how to find out.

INSKEEP: Reporters are occasionally granted access to Syria. A few, like our colleague Kelly McEvers, have even slipped in without permission. But they're mostly kept out, which means they and we rely on the kinds of people we will hear about next. Activists and citizen journalists are risking their lives to document the Syrian bombardment of the city of Homs.

Kelly McEvers explains how they do it.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: The offensive on Homs started when government troops began firing tanks, rockets and mortars at neighborhoods that have been the most fierce in resisting the government throughout Syria's uprising.

Mainstream journalists are barred from entering Homs. So, a team of activists decided to record the offensive themselves.

They positioned their cameras on top of buildings in Homs. Each morning the view is blue sky, a minaret, a sea of rooftops. Then comes the booms.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS)

MCEVERS: The offensive is mainly centered on the neighborhood of Bab Amr. It's seen some of the most persistent protests against the government, and an increasing resistance by civilians who've taken up arms and soldiers who've defected from the army.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS)

MCEVERS: Day in and day out, the video stream is up and running, recording the government offensive in real time. Then, last Thursday, a rocket hit the house where the activists were stationed.

(SOUNDBITE OF AN EXPLOSION)

MCEVERS: The screen goes grey with smoke. The camera keeps rolling. The picture of the rooftops eventually comes back into view.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLING)

MCEVERS: Then you hear the activists calling to out to God, as they discover the bodies of four women in the basement who were killed by the blast.

Twitter and Skype are a flurry of messages. Did I just watch someone die, one activist writes. The rockets keep falling, volunteers help the injured, and the camera team hits the streets.

One of them is TV-ready. His name is Danny Abdul Dayem. He records this indignant standup in front of five, bloodied children who were also injured by a rocket that day.

DANNY ABDUL DAYEM: They've been hitting us since from 6 AM, until it's 2 PM now. We have over 100 bodies. Look at the children. How can you stand and watch these children be like this?

MCEVERS: Danny has become a regular face in the coverage of the bombardment of Homs. With a Syrian father and a British mother, he's the perfect mix of local and international. His videos have been all over the BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera.

This video was shot in a field hospital as Danny walks through gruesome heaps of dead and injured people.

DAYEM: 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 not stopped with these for four hours now. They're going to kill us all. If you don't help us now they'll kill millions.

MCEVERS: Danny recently left Homs and sat down for an interview. Before Syria's uprising, Danny studied business management. Now he's one of the most wanted men in the country. For his protection, we can't disclose his location.

DAYEM: If they catch me, I'll be in pieces.

MCEVERS: But still, Danny says he'll go back to Homs soon.

DAYEM: You don't think about your safety. You just think about, I'm going to do as much as I can before they get me. I'm going to do as much as I can before a rocket comes on me or lands on me.

MCEVERS: Zeynep Tufekci researches the power of social media in the Arab uprisings at the University of North Carolina. She says on one hand, Danny and the activists' work documenting the violence makes it impossible for the international community to stand by and do nothing while the Syrian regime kills civilians.

But it also could make it difficult for the regime to consider any kind of peace agreement in the future.

ZEYNEP TUFEKCI , UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: This kind of visual imagery, of how horrific it all is might make it harder for the regime to try to negotiate something 'cause they probably are thinking - and probably not incorrectly - that people are not going to forget this.

MCEVERS: As for Danny, he says he hopes that once the Syrian Revolution is over, he can just go back to being a regular guy.

DAYEM: I just want to go back to my life, listening to music, seeing my friends and forget about all this.

MCEVERS: But he admits it might be a long, long time before he gets there - if ever.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.