Life was so hard during the siege of Homs in Syria's civil war that residents like Simav were reduced to eating grass to survive. She says she even looked forward to the times when she had to go out looking for the grass, because it offered a diversion from the bombs and snipers that had become a part of her daily life. She videotaped nearly every aspect of her desperate struggle to survive over a two-year period, providing some of the most poignant and personal accounts of a conflict that has caused the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people. Her footage was then paired with YouTube videos taken from every day Syrians, and included in a feature-length documentary by exiled director Ossama Mohammed called "Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait." Simav and Mohammed speak to Bob Simon for a report on 60 Minutes Sunday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
"I remember on my third day without food, I was ready to collapse," says Simav. She says she found sugar containers in an abandoned home. "I started licking them like a wild animal. Sometimes there was nothing but grass. "It was delicious. I would go out looking for grass because our days were full of shelling and hunger and frustration," Simav tells Simon in an interview in Istanbul. "I would try and look at it in a positive way, to forget the pain."
She captured the horrors that were experienced by Syrians every day, but the most difficult thing was the conflict's toll on the children, some of whom she got to know personally through a school she opened.
In a heart-wrenching video, she illustrates how children grew used to death in Syria, showing her interaction with a 4-year-old boy as he brings flowers to his father's grave.
Simon's report also takes a look at another film that was shot in the city called "Return to Homs." This documentary follows Abdul Basset al-Saroot, a star soccer player who becomes a protest leader in the early days of the uprising. The film shows Basset in the streets of Homs leading thousands in denouncing the Assad regime. What drew people to him in those early days? "The songs, his songs," the film's director Talal Derki tells Simon.
Over the course of the siege, Basset transforms from a peaceful revolutionary into hardened rebel fighter who battles Assad's troops in the streets of Homs, and eventually aligns himself with Islamists. Why? According to the film's producer, Orwa Nyrabia, it was because his calls for help from the West went unheeded. "You have to get [help] from somewhere," Nyrabia tells Simon. "And if it comes with a few conditions then you'll have to adapt. And that was a necessity for many in Syria."