“We are receiving a lot of people. The rate of casualties is increasing,” says Abu Bashir, a volunteer who helps coordinate the treatment of casualties and, like others interviewed for this article, used a pseudonym due to the sensitive nature of the center’s work.
Indeed, the refugees are not guaranteed safety even once they cross the border.
Syria exerts a pervasive influence in Lebanon through a network of Damascus-backed allies and a sympathetic government in Beirut. Several Syrians have been abducted in Lebanon since the uprising began in mid-March, and anti-Assad regime activists are forced to live in hiding, moving from one safe house to another.
Some 5,000 Syrian refugees are scattered across northern Lebanon, many forced to rent accommodation or stay with friends and relatives given the lack of assistance from the Lebanese state. Turkey, in contrast, has established a number of camps along its southern border with Syria – where as many as 12,000 Syrian refugees have crossed – and is catering to the needs of those remaining in the country.
Escaping Syrian soldiers
Most of the casualties being treated at the medical center are from Syrian towns and villages which, like Qusayr, lie close to the Lebanon-Syria border.
Fawzi, a young ironsmith from Tel Kalakh, two miles north of Lebanon, was shot in both arms two months ago by Syrian security forces who burst into his home after he had returned from an anti-regime protest.
“They pushed their way in past my mother, told me to raise my arms in the air and one of them fired four bullets from his rifle into my arms. After I fell to the ground, they stomped me with their boots,” he says.
Faisal, a thin wide-eyed 24-year-old from Qusayr, recalls an incident in November when he and several of his friends were trying to escape Syrian soldiers who were conducting house-to-house searches.