It was past 11 a.m., and Abdullah was finally waking up. The night before had gone late, he and his friends challenging and daring and fleeing from the feared mukhabarat, Syria's secret police, who for the past five months have been bent on crushing dissent here in Homs. With a few hours of sleep behind him, Abdullah rolled off his mattress and began tapping out details of their exploits on his laptop. The clashes had been fierce and lasted hours, past the muezzin's call to prayer at dawn. "We won't bow to anyone but God," the protesters declared. The mukhabarat replied with tear gas, buckshot and bullets. "Hot" was how Abdullah described it as he typed.