TRIPOLI, Lebanon – In Syria, hospitals are a place of danger where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces search for protesters and rebels – making it too hazardous for many wounded people to seek treatment. Injured Syrians are instead making a treacherous journey to get medical help in neighboring Lebanon.
Hasna was a typical Syrian housewife, living in the countryside of Homs with her husband and two small children, until frequent army bombings caused them to flee four months ago. But when they thought it safe to return, tragedy struck. The family was hit by a rocket while riding on a motorbike.
“My daughter was in my arms, and when the accident happened she was blown out of my arms,” she said. “It was a terrible feeling. I will never forget the sound of the rocket and the sound of my heart pumping and how we fell to the ground and I started praying.”
Hasna’s children died instantly, her husband a short while later. She lost both her legs. “My legs are finished… I knew they were going to be cut,” she said.
Rebels helped her travel from Homs to Tripoli in northern Lebanon, a trip that usually takes two hours. But it took 12, involved numerous vehicles and her being carried by stretcher part of the way. Once in Lebanon, the Red Cross brought her to this hospital.
A man, who does not want his identity revealed, said he was an officer in the government’s army and defected in January. He joined the Free Syrian Army and was injured in April during fighting in Homs. He says the violence in Syria is the fault of President Assad.
“Bashar is the commander-in-chief and the army will not move without his direct orders. So everything that is happening in Syria he is the one to blame. Him and his inner circle, they rule everything,” he said.
The defector, despite multiple injuries, vows to fight again for the opposition. “After my operation, I am going back directly to Syria to the Free Army,” he said.
Hosni, a civilian who was shot on his motorbike six months ago in Homs, says after his treatment he too hopes to return and help Syria become free.
“I really need to be cured so I can go back to Syria to stay with the guys and I’m really relieved they are doing well. My morale is getting higher and I have a good feeling, I’m very hopeful all Syrians will celebrate soon,” said Hosni.
Even doctors have not been immune to arrest, torture and murder by government forces. A doctor says he was jailed for nearly a year in Syria and beaten for treating injured neighbors.
“I am a civilian, I have a family, I’m very famous, I have a clinic, I am a teacher in the university. Suddenly I am a criminal? Why? Because I helped my neighbors,” he said.
Like widow Hasna, injured Syrians remain strong amid ongoing violence back home. Hasna has channeled her pain into poetry, urging her countrymen on to victory and freedom.