Sunday, March 4, 2012

How I escaped from Homs as Syrian forces closed in

I joined a motley procession of injured fighters and journalists fleeing the city – on the day 64 people died trying the same thing

Javier Espinosa, Sunday 4 March 2012

"The motley procession seemed like something out of the 17th-century Spain described by the writer Francisco de Quevedo. One injured man was in his underwear, with his legs, head and arms bandaged up, using his working hand to grasp his drip. He could barely walk. Then came a limping man, wounded in his foot, who hopped or was carried on a friend's back. Another young man, his leg shattered by shrapnel, was transported on a blanket held by others.

Ahmed, his arm and leg lacerated by shrapnel from a rocket, leaned on Mohamed, who struggled onwards with a sniper's bullet in his back. Journalists Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvier, both wounded, were part of the same strange troop, along with two other correspondents, including me.

Even the vehicles we travelled in seemed more ready for the scrapyard than this insane venture. The lorries were peppered with bullet holes and shrapnel. One jolted along on a flat tyre.

Fifty or more of us – many disabled by their wounds – were trying to break out of the besieged neighbourhood of Baba Amr, in Homs, fleeing the final attack unleashed by the Syrian regime. It was to be a risky night-time dash through Syrian army lines, which would prove just how desperate these people, abandoned to their luck, had become......

There is no method to war. Nothing you have learned helps you predict who will live and who will join the statistics. On the day I escaped Homs, the rebels said some 64 other people had died trying the same thing. They claim they were women and children.

For Assem, a 36-year-old labourer who has joined the rebels, the defeat of Baba Amr – still not certain when we spoke – would not end the uprising.

"Bashar has not got the message. I, for example, loved him when he took over. I thought he would be different to his father," he said. He pointed to a part of his little finger. "If he had just given us this little bit of freedom, we would have remained quiet. But whenever he slaughters someone from our families he simply increases our desire to kill him.""

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