Syrian activist escapes to Turkey - and to exile from the fight against Assad

ISTANBUL - This is a story of survival.

Two years ago, we first met Ameena working as an anti-al Assad activist in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus called Moahdimiyeh.

At night the whole area around her home came under constant shelling by the Syrian army. 

But as bad as things were, they were about to get a lot worse.

In August 2013, Ameena's neighborhood was attacked with chemical weapons. But the poison gas that killed more than 1,000 people blew away from her house.

And she lived to tell us - in a Skype call - how she ran to the clinic.

"I had to help," she said then. "The people were screaming."

It was risky, but life had ceased to mean very much by then. 

Ameena managed to escape to Turkey to a lonely exile CBS News
 "If I didn't die from the chemical weapon I am going to die from the starvation," she said.

That fall, the Syrian military had cut off all food supplies to the suburb.

When the army lifted its siege long enough to allow the vulnerable to escape, Ameenah managed to slip out too.

Never sleeping twice in the same place, she was at last smuggled across the border to Turkey where we caught up with her.

"I just want to go back," she said. "I don't want to think about it, I don't want to think that this is going to last for a long time." 

Ameena's beloved nephew was killed by a shell CBS News
 Ameena carries with her evidence of the atrocities she's seen: photos of starved children from her suburb, and of her brother's family, including her beloved nephew, Ahmed, who was blown up by a shell.

She says she has no regrets about becoming an activist.

Survival for Ameena now means no bombs and bullets any more, but just a lonely exile from home and from the fight she had been willing to die for.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."