Skip to main content

Syrian family hides from attacks in underground 'prison'

From Arwa Damon, CNN
updated 1:19 PM EST, Wed December 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "We go home every two weeks to shower, fearful and terrorized," a mother says
  • The Kurdiye family's home is on the front lines of fighting in Aleppo
  • It has been hit by artillery fire since the family fled
  • Though they hide underground, the Kurdiyes say they choke on dust from bombings

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

Northern Syria (CNN) -- Down a steep stone stairway and into the darkness lies a cold chamber that looks more like a dungeon than a home.

But this is where the Kurdiye family has been hiding from bombardment for four months.

"The strikes were all around us. We just ran out, with nothing," 20-year-old Fatme said. "We just ran and ran down here, and the shrapnel was falling all over."

Read more: Obama warns al-Assad against chemical weapons

Since then, the Kurdiyes have occasionally darted back home to collect belongings.

Syrian refugees' misery
Children fight for food in Aleppo
NATO extends warning to Assad
A Syrian 'opposition Prime Minister'

As Fatme tells her story, another explosion booms from above.

"There would be bombing like that, and we'd come running back here," she said.

The family's home is just five doors away. But it's right in one of Aleppo's front lines in Syria's relentless civil war.

It has been hit by artillery fire since the family fled.

Read more: As fighting subsides, Aleppo residents find little left

"We go home every two weeks to shower, fearful and terrorized," Fatme's mother said. "We have a weak home. It could crumble any moment."

But the last time the family ventured out was three weeks ago.

Fatme and her young sister want to leave to anywhere they can feel the sun and smell fresh air. The chamber is more like a grave sometimes, Fatme's sister says.

But their father refuses.

"Poor but proud," Fatme's father said. He doesn't want to be at the mercy of others.

Here, he can send his son to scrape some money and buy a little food.

Fatme's mother has nightmares her children are dead. She said she feels her heart is going to burst with each explosion.

"I just tell her it's far away and not to be scared," Fatme said.

But sometimes the bombings are so close, family members say they choke on the dust.

"What can we say, we're living in a prison," Fatme said.

But no one knows when the prison sentence will end.

NATO OKs Patriots and delivers warning

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 8:28 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Syria has submitted a revised proposal "that aims to complete the removal of all chemicals" from the country before the end of April.
updated 5:32 AM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon reports on ISIS defector who says destroying ISIS as critical as defeating regime.
updated 10:53 PM EST, Mon February 17, 2014
The U.S. wants a United Nations resolution that will, among other things, bring humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria.
updated 7:59 AM EST, Mon February 17, 2014
When the radical Islamist militia ISIS arrived in the Syrian town of Addana a year ago, many welcomed them. What followed changed their minds.
updated 9:49 AM EST, Mon February 17, 2014
CNN obtained video clips from Syrian activists documenting the atrocities committed by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS.
updated 3:17 PM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
On Crossfire, Danielle Pletka discusses what the U.S. needs to do to resolve the Syria crisis.
updated 8:01 PM EST, Wed February 5, 2014
Her almond-shaped brown eyes shine through her sunken face as a doctor lifts her sweater to reveal a tiny rib cage pushing against her skin.
updated 12:46 PM EST, Tue February 4, 2014
The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is home to around 100,000 Syrian refugees. CNN spent several days meeting the residents of the camp.
updated 2:59 PM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
Renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts have found "direct evidence" of "torture and killing" by the Assad regime.
Traumatized children who have witnessed the horrors of war are being helped to read -- and rebuild a normal life. CNN's Becky Anderson reports.
updated 7:07 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
A battle zone tour organized by the Syrian government for CNN and several other media outlets Wednesday was more than bizarre.
updated 12:35 PM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert meets with the family of a little girl who was wounded in Syria, now living in a refugee camp.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
110 year old, Jabari Alawali walked for over 10 hours to reach Jordan from Syria.
ADVERTISEMENT