Adonis Diaries

Another wave of refugees: Om Jamal crossing the borders from Syria to Lebanon…

Posted on: July 29, 2012

Another wave of refugees: Om Jamal crossing the borders from Syria to Lebanon…

Bradley Secker in Reyhanli, Turkey, wrote in USA Today (with slight editing) 

Om Jamal, 39, is crossing the borders from Syria to Lebanon. Her village is part of the region of Reef Qusayr, southwest of Homs,where people of different faiths have lived together since antiquity. Qusayr is among the latest areas to be engulfed by violence: the military has pounded it with artillery for months.

The uprising turned the region into a bloody battleground. Villagers refuse to surrender, fathers bury sons hurriedly every day, and doctors struggle to save civilians sliced by shrapnel.

Om Jamal says: “There is a boy who is shell-shocked and hasn’t moved, and babies have stopped nursing from their mothers. There’s no way we can handle this anymore. We are going insane over it.”

The violence has intensified in Syria in recent weeks, particularly after the assassination of  5 highest ranking officers, forcing thousands of people to the borders of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.

Fighting in the capital of Damascus ebbed Tuesday but raged in the commercial hub of Aleppo, where attack helicopters rocketed apartment buildings shielding armed rebels and frightened residents.

Refugee camps outside Syria’s borders are growing. People search for relatives and friends to see who has made it out.

Ahmed, a pharmacist from the city of Al Bab, says: “The Syrian government is firing about 20 to 30 mortars at my town every day. I have two children aged 2 and 5. It’s very difficult for them to hear the bombing each night. They can’t sleep.”

In the past week, the United Nations estimate that 18,000 people have fled Syria for Lebanon. In total, nearly 115,000 Syrians have registered as refugees with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees since March 2011.

The true number of refugees is probably higher since most refugees do not register, said Dana Sleiman, spokesperson for the agency in Lebanon.

People have streamed in all week from villages such as Ain Al-Tennour. Syrian state TV reported Tuesday that regime forces had destroyed “terrorist headquarters” in Ain Al-Tennour, referring to a base of the coalition of military defectors known as the Free Syrian Army.

In Wadi Khaled, a border region of North Lebanon, people from Ain Al-Tennour said every woman and child in the village left. Their husbands, brothers and sons stayed behind to defend what is left of the village.

Om Mohamed, 35, who fled with her five children says: “I was helping my husband before, but those shabiha thugs] will come in, and they don’t spare women or children. We’re not afraid of their weapons. We’re afraid of our honor, that we would be raped.”

Ain Al-Tennour is among 40 or so villages that surround Qusayr. As the battle for the nearby city of Homs escalated at the end of 2011, virtually all trading stopped with Qusayr. Shelves emptied of food and families relied on handouts.

Om Khaled, 39, who escaped with her four children says: “Things got really bad last month. We had several days without even bread. The Free Syrian Army sometimes gives us food, but they don’t have much.”

“There was a shelling in the barn at night when a child went to milk the cow,” said Om Jamal. “The shell blew the cow to pieces. I ran outside and found the girl. She was standing there in shock, barely wounded; her skirt was burnt and covered with dust.”

Abu Ahmed, 40, arrived in Lebanon a month ago with his six children after the military set fire to his house. He has crossed back into Syria many times to help others escape.

Ahmed says the Lebanese help the refugees: “here are good people there who are sympathizing with us,”

But even Lebanon is not safe. Syrian troops have attacked areas of Wadi Khaled as recently as early July.

“I never thought Bashar Assad would last this long,” Om Mohamed said. “I thought he would step aside without doing what’s he’s doing to us. But he’s a man who is not afraid of God.”

Note: Editors in Washington cut out the sections that refer to Lebanese Shia helping refugees with shelter and transportation, which challenges the sectarian narrative of the Syrian regime and Israel.


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