Just inside Syria, refugees from embattled town huddle in makeshift camp
A young pregnant woman in this encampment of refugees fleeing Syria's crackdown in Jisr al-Shughur asked: 'Is this acceptable to anybody in the world?'
Khirbet al-Jouz, Syria
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Heavy rain poured overnight on the hundreds of Syrians huddled under plastic sheeting strung up between green plum trees, their mud-caked shoes set carefully at the edge of sodden blankets.
As the clouds break, one man stands beside a 10-year-old girl in a pink jacket, Sanaa.
“My daughter, she went out in a demonstration and just because she said the word freedom, she has given herself a death sentence,” says Abu Firas, a carpenter.
His two sons are in Lebanon and can’t return, because their identity cards list their place of birth: the contested town of Jisr al-Shughur. If they show them at the border, the father says, “right away they would be detained, dead.”
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appear to be brutally asserting control over rebellious regions, even as pressure mounts on Syria to stop the carnage.
Today, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lectured the Syrian leader in a phone call to begin reforms.
'Is this acceptable to anybody in this world?'
In this encampment, a haphazard patchwork of blue and white tarpaulins in the shadow of a towering Turkish border post, there are more questions than answers.
“Why is our president killing us? [Why] is he bringing us to this war?” asks an English literature graduate who uses the pseudonym Nour.
Jammed into a minivan with more than a dozen other women and children, the 22-year-old woman, pregnant and wearing a head scarf, gives voice to the anger and fear that many Syrians today reserve only for their dictator.
Nour’s hands shake when she speaks. She knows of killings in her city of Latakia – including a lawyer gunned down as he went to visit his sister.
“I know that God created human beings to live in this world in a liberal way,” says Nour. “Why does only one man want to control all these people in Syria? More [than] 20 million people. Why?”
“Our president kills us … and forces us to leave our country and live in camps. Is it acceptable according to anybody in this world?” she adds.
Following the smugglers' route
This patch of northwest Syria has become the focal point of the 12-week rebellion against Mr. Assad and his family’s 40-year rule in Syria.
But little has been heard from the Syrians most affected. Turkish authorities are physically preventing outsiders from speaking with Syrians who are crossing the border at a rate of more than 1,000 each day.
To circumvent those restrictions, a few Western journalists have followed steep smuggler trails past the Turkish military. Through a gap in a fence, they cross into Syria and follow another set of trails – strewn in places with debris from departing refugees – to get to this camp.
Turkish soldiers at one point shouted orders at this correspondent’s group to stop on Tuesday, but were too far away to stop them from running away.