An increasing number of Syrian activists have fled to Lebanon to seek refuge following the crackdown on protestors by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Lebanon, known as the Arab world’s “bastion of freedom,” is seen by activists as a place of sanctuary. However, they still fear danger may follow them even outside the borders of Syria.
Runaways find Lebanon easy to escape to as it is close, familiar and right across the border. Lebanon has also a large number of supporters of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad. However, some in the country still support the Baath regime, leaving Syrian activists with a large number of enemies in Lebanon.
Omar, a Syrian activist who fled the fighting in Homs, has been hiding in northern Lebanon since earlier this year.
“In north Lebanon it is almost the same as in Syria. There are neighborhoods that are anti-Assad and there are neighborhoods that are pro-Assad. So it is very dangerous if you were in Jabal Mohsen neighborhood, for example, and they got you and they saw your ID and that you are from Homs, you are with the revolution, it would be extremely dangerous for you and either they will kill you or they will send you to Syria," said Omar.
Omar is one of many Syrian activists operating undercover using a false name, keeping a low profile and using online media platforms.
In Syria they have an expression: “You escape from the rain and end up in the gutter.”
Syrians in Lebanon say they may have escaped the firing line, but that doesn’t mean there they are not in danger, as they don’t know who they can trust.
Meanwhile, in the country’s capital, Beirut, Syrians say it is similarly dangerous. In fact, Beirut is divided among religious sects as well as political lines and, whether Syrians are activists or not, there are some neighborhoods where they are no longer welcomed.
“After the revolution started in Syria it became difficult for anyone who is Syrian to live here, it didn’t matter whether they were with, or against, the regime.
‘Where are you from?’ became like a general question for all Syrians so people could work out their political point of view,” said Ali Nazir Ali, Syrian activist.
Thousands of Syrian workers have fled Lebanon this year following a series of attacks and kidnappings. But, for Syrian activists, many of whom have no passport and therefore no way out, all they can do is keep their head down and keep looking over their shoulder.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 15,000 people, the majority civilians, have been killed in Syria since the uprising against the Assad rule in March 2011. The United Nations put the figure at 10,000 people.