Wounded Syrians say soldiers routinely target civilians

Young Syrians have spoken of the mayhem unleashed in their homeland. (Reuters)

Most were shot by their own government’s soldiers, one was crushed against a wall by a military vehicle.

From hospital beds in the Turkish city of Antakya, young Syrian men spoke of the mayhem unleashed in their homeland.

Khalil Kedar, from Idlib in northwestern Syria, was sat up in bed sipping juice through a straw. One leg was immobilized in a large white plaster.

“We had almost arrived in Turkey,” the 30-year-old recalled.

“Near the border the soldiers saw us and immediately opened fire on our little group.”

He was shot in the right thigh, but it was a clean wound from which he is expected to fully recover.

Kedar said he decided to flee Syria after being called up to join the army.

“I knew I’d be asked to shoot people, and I didn’t want to,” he told AFP.

“So we left. The soldiers have their orders: they aim at anyone who tries to flee the country.”

Hassan Chaib, 23, said he too received call-up orders − and he too made a run for the border. His left leg was now in plaster.

“I was on the road of a village near Idleb two days ago,” he explained. “The army shoots anyone on sight, especially the men.”

“My friends carried me for five hours in the mountains,” he said. Once safely in Turkey, he was able to get word to his loved ones back in Syria that he had made it over in one piece.

Under the benevolent eyes of the Turkish police officers, Syrian activists go from one room to another greeting the injured with words of encouragement − and mobile phone cards to help them contact friends and family back home.

Hassan and Khalil were relatively fortunate in their run across the mountain road into southern Turkey.

Ahmad al Rahal, a 28-year-old imam, nearly did not make it all.

Rahal arrived nearly two weeks ago and he is still almost immobilized by the bandages and plaster casts covering his body.

He was part of a protest against President Bashar al-Assad in Kfar Nabl, in the northwest province of Idlib, when a jeep drove at them, he said.

“It crushed me against a wall and I could not move. Then a soldier got out. He pointed his gun at me to kill me, but the crowd stopped him.”

But his bones were still broken in 13 places.

Rahal was taken by car across the mountains into Turkey on minor roads that at that time were unguarded but now are almost impossible to use. From there, Turkish Red Crescent workers transported him to Antakya in southern Turkey.

Khaled Asram was shot in the spine during another demonstration just four days ago in the village of Kfar Ruma in the same province, Idlib.

“Soldiers opened fire from windows, people fell on top of me,” the 24-year-old car mechanic recalled.

“A bullet hit me in the back when I ran. I can’t walk any more. Two friends took turns carrying me on their backs.”

His thin legs lay inert on the bed.

In a neighboring room, Mustapha Jaber, a big man, told how soldiers had fired into a crowd of protesters.

“It was a week ago in al-Qala, near Hama,” the 37-year-old mobile phone seller said. “Soldiers opened fire from rooftops, with rifles and Kalashnikovs.”

None of the protesters was armed, he said.

He was hit in the legs, he said: one was in a plaster cast, the other bandaged.

But he was one of the more fortunate ones that day.

“My friends made a stretcher and carried me on a mountain path to Turkey,” said Jaber.

Those more seriously wounded, who could not be carried away, who were losing too much blood, were left to die where they had fallen, he said.

Jaber lifted himself up from the bed on his elbows, raised his head and shouted.

“Bashar, son of Hafez, damn you! You who have everyone shot − men, women and children!”

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