The 15-year-old documenting Eastern Ghouta massacre with selfie videos

Like most teenagers, 15-year-old Muhammad Najem spends a lot of time posting selfie videos on social media. Unlike mo...

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 1:17 PM
Updated: Feb 21, 2018 1:17 PM

Like most teenagers, 15-year-old Muhammad Najem spends a lot of time posting selfie videos on social media. Unlike most teenagers, Najem makes his videos in Syria as airstrikes rain bombs onto his street and kill his friends.

"The children of Ghouta die every day by the bombing of the Assad regime and Russia," Najem says in one of the dozens of videos he has posted on Twitter and YouTube.

Najem lives in Eastern Ghouta, a besieged suburb of Damascus, which is suffering one of the bloodiest bombing campaigns in the seven-year Syrian conflict.

In two days this week, intense airstrikes and shelling by Russian-backed Syrian government forces killed more than 250 people in Eastern Ghouta, including 58 children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations says nearly 400,000 people are trapped in the rebel-held area.

Najem's videos have a common theme: an appeal to the world to bear witness to what is happening in Syria.

"People should know about everything happening in Syria," he told CNN. "I want to follow my studies. I want to become a reporter when I grow up.

"Our blood begs every day. You watch it daily without any reaction from you," Najem says in one video, wearing a Syrian flag draped around his neck like a scarf. "Our hunger, cold, and displacement have become a common sight. Save our people in Ghouta."

In one of his most powerful videos, Najem stands on a rooftop as explosions echo in the distance.

"We are killed by your silence," he says. "(Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, and (Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei ..." He stops. An explosion thunders in the distance.

Visibly shaken, his voice breaks, coming out strangled and emotional as he continues: "Khamenei killed our childhood."

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of these videos.

The death toll is personal for Najem. He says one of his friends was killed in a bombing earlier this month. He told CNN they were playing in the street, just like most days, when the airstrikes began and everyone sprinted into basements. One of the friends didn't make it, and another was injured.

The next day he tweeted, "Yesterday we were playing together in the underground shelter. Today my friend and his family were killed by a fighter plane that put his life to death."

It was February 8. The White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue group, said 80 people died in eastern Ghouta on that day alone.

Najem later posted a video he said was the chaotic scene in that airstrike's aftermath. The streets are covered in inches of chalky ash, the air still choked with white smoke. In the video, a group of men load a victim onto a stretcher into the back of a white van -- a makeshift ambulance. The men load another victim into another van as Najem records the scene.

The airstrikes on February 8 also hit three medical facilities, killing even more people, according to a medical group operating in Syria. CNN is unable to determine if the victims loaded into the vans shown in Najem's video survived.

Najem has also reported on the dire state of medical facilities. In a video posted in December, he stands in front of a massive rubble pile wearing a Bart Simpson hoodie and explains that the hospital is running out of medicine.

"The humanitarian and medical situation in eastern Ghouta is difficult to describe with words. What is happening now is genocide," he says, his voice thick with emotion.

Najem also interviews children in his neighborhood: young boys and girls who should be in school, but instead are bracing for the next round of bombs to drop.

In December, he asked for their New Year's wishes. One young boy, speaking very matter-of-factly, wished the Assad regime would let his father out of prison. Another young boy, barely old enough to remember a peaceful Syria, simply wished he wouldn't have to carry firewood and water anymore.

"We know that you get bored from our blood pictures," Najem says in a recent video, directly into the camera, directly to his viewers. "We know you have seen videos how they kill us. But we will continue appealing to you." In another video, he adds: "Save the children of Ghouta please."

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 91°
Robinson
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 94°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Rockville
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Casey
Few Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 94°
Brazil
Few Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Marshall
Few Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Sunshine for the afternoon but storms tonight
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 152899

Reported Deaths: 7345
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook946054693
Lake10253428
DuPage9571483
Kane8028281
Will7171324
Winnebago3161104
McHenry2229101
St. Clair2202144
Kankakee140165
Unassigned1175201
Rock Island114230
Madison113370
Kendall103223
Champaign101817
Boone63021
Peoria62830
DeKalb61920
Sangamon50933
Jackson34719
McLean30815
Randolph2997
Ogle2864
Stephenson2826
LaSalle24617
Clinton24517
Macon24322
Whiteside20815
Union20219
Coles19017
Grundy1885
Iroquois1725
Tazewell1678
Knox1570
Adams1511
Monroe15013
Warren1470
Williamson1454
Cass1378
Morgan1323
Jefferson11517
Henry1061
Lee1052
McDonough10415
Vermilion862
Pulaski810
Marion770
Montgomery691
Macoupin663
Perry611
Douglas550
Livingston542
Jo Daviess521
Christian494
Jasper477
Woodford442
Ford421
Franklin400
Jersey401
Clark360
Bureau352
Menard310
Cumberland300
Mercer280
Effingham271
Washington250
Johnson240
Mason240
Fayette233
Wabash230
Alexander220
Carroll212
Piatt210
Hancock201
Moultrie200
Shelby201
Bond191
Crawford190
Logan180
Edgar170
De Witt160
Fulton160
Saline160
Wayne161
Massac150
Schuyler130
Marshall120
Brown100
Lawrence90
White90
Greene80
Henderson80
Richland80
Hamilton70
Stark70
Pike60
Gallatin50
Edwards30
Clay20
Hardin20
Out of IL20
Calhoun10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 50300

Reported Deaths: 2748
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11920692
Lake5432248
Elkhart347058
Allen2902133
St. Joseph205169
Hamilton1665101
Cass16449
Hendricks1446100
Johnson1325118
Porter80238
Tippecanoe7599
Clark68144
Vanderburgh6816
Madison67264
LaPorte60527
Howard59458
Bartholomew59345
Kosciusko5704
Marshall5308
Noble50128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4783
Boone47444
Delaware46952
Hancock46036
Shelby43525
Floyd40444
Morgan33631
Monroe32928
Grant30926
Dubois2976
Henry29717
Montgomery29720
Clinton2893
White26810
Decatur25532
Dearborn25423
Lawrence25225
Vigo2478
Warrick24329
Harrison21722
Greene19332
Miami1922
Jennings17912
Putnam1728
DeKalb1674
Scott1639
Wayne1536
Daviess15017
Perry1459
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1332
Franklin1278
Ripley1277
Wabash1152
Carroll1132
Gibson1132
Fayette1057
Whitley1045
Newton10010
Starke983
Huntington932
Randolph794
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington681
Knox670
Clay665
Pulaski661
Rush613
Posey550
Owen521
Benton510
Spencer501
Adams491
Sullivan471
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Tipton321
Switzerland300
Martin240
Parke230
Ohio220
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193