Tales of horror come out of Syria’s darkness

Bearing the scars of the conflict they fled

As she left Homs, 10-year-old Nada saw dead bodies littering the streets of the besieged Syrian city, and she has since refused to eat, says her father Abu Ibrahim.
"The army of Bashar al-Assad destroyed our homes," says Ibrahim, a refugee who fled to Lebanon from the horrors of Homs, where activists say an army assault has killed at least 500 people in the past week.
"Before, we were bombarded by mortars or rocket-propelled grenades, but now they are using tanks and helicopters," he says, sitting in an unfinished house that he, his wife and seven children share with two other families.
The house is situated in the Lebanese region of Wadi Khaled, a main destination for refugees escaping the violence in the bordering Syrian province of Homs.
After 11 months of repression that cost the lives of more than 6,000 people, many are still struggling to believe that their suffering was caused by their own government.
"If Bashar al-Assad had launched the offensive in the Golan, it would have been recovered from Israel," says Umm Mohammed, a mother of three who lived in the Homs district of Bayyada.
The refugees speak of their fears over the relentless military onslaught on Homs, but also of the unbearable living conditions they were forced to resort to in their hometown.
"Some people burned the furniture of their houses to keep warm," says Abu Ibrahim, also from Bayyada.
Umm Mohammed said that, eventually, her family had no choice but to leave the central city.
"We packed our bags when there was a shortage of milk for babies and houses began to be flattened," she says.
The children also expressed their anguish, sometimes using adult-like language.
"I call on leaders across the world to send food and milk to Baba Amr," pleads 12-year-old Afrah.
"In Baba Amr, we all hid in one room," recalls the blonde girl.
As is the case for thousands of Syrians who have taken refuge in Lebanon since March last year, the families who arrived recently are adjusting to a new life.
"We have nothing but our clothes," says Abu Anas, a 30-year-old from Homs' main flashpoint neighbourhood of Baba Amr.
But his thoughts were still with those who he says remained trapped in city due to the shelling.
"I left my father and my mother in Baba Amr," lamented the father of a two-year-old child.
"I cannot reach them on the phone... they have God with them," he says with a broken voice, tears welling in his eyes.
Abu Anas also recalls the nightmarish sight of corpses in the streets which "nobody could recover" because of the shelling, and snipers.
Othman, 14, says ongoing explosions could be heard from across the border at night.
"They say that half of the homes were destroyed; that people are still buried under rubble," he says, adding that intelligence agents killed one of his five brothers.
As part of their new daily routine, his family gathers around an old television to catch up on the latest developments in their homeland.
"In other countries, people speak as they wish, but in my country, we are beaten and jailed when someone opens his mouth. I want to become like the others," he says.