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No escape from horror for those fleeing violence in Syria

One woman has not spoken since witnessing her five children killed one month ago

Image Credit: EPA
Syrian refugee children who fled the unrest in Syria with their families, sit in their home,at Ramtha city near the Syrian border, Jordan. UN envoy for children and armed conflict says more than 34 children have been killed in Syria since the April 12 truce.
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Beirut Umm Mounir has not uttered a word for more than a month, ever since she witnessed the killing of her five children during shelling by Syrian regime forces of the flashpoint central city of Homs.

One of her children was barely an infant when he died.

“Ever since she arrived here, she hasn't said a word. The people who brought her here told me what had happened. We took her to a psychologist for treatment. But she is still in shock”
-Activist, commenting on a Syrian refugee whose five children were killed
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After the tragedy, Umm Mounir, in her late 20s, was evacuated with hundreds of others to the outskirts of Damascus, where a journalist recently met with her as well as other refugees.

Hosted by an anti-regime activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Umm Mounir sat quiet and expressionless.

"Ever since she arrived here, she hasn't said a word," said the activist. "The people who brought her here told me what had happened. We took her to a psychologist for treatment. But she is still in shock."

One million people displaced

At least one million people have been displaced inside Syria since the outbreak of the revolt against the regime of Bashar Al Assad in March last year, according to the United Nations.

A large number, mainly from Homs, have sought refuge in towns and villages around the capital.

Fleeing parts of the beleaguered country targeted by a fierce regime crackdown, they have sought refuge in areas such as Jaramana, Rukn Al Deen and Qadisa where residents and activists are offering them aid and shelter.

But despite being out of harm's way, at least for now, the horrors they have witnessed cannot be erased.

Husband killed, home destroyed

"My husband was killed and my house was destroyed," a 25-year-old woman from the battered Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr, said speaking on condition that her name be withheld.

She said she had no choice but to flee after her home was destroyed in March during fierce shelling by government troops.

"I took my four children and ran away," she said.

Their escape was itself fraught with difficulty.

Killing people in cold blood

"We had to move from house to house, hiding constantly. I was terrified we might be taken prisoner by regime forces," the woman said. "They were killing people in cold blood, just because they came from Baba Amr."

The rebel stronghold that was home to some 20,000 people came under nearly a month of relentless shelling by government forces in March that destroyed much of the neighbourhood and left hundreds dead, according to human rights groups.

Most of the residents fled the assault fearing for their lives. The government argues its operation was aimed at ridding Homs of "armed terrorist groups".

But residents now living as refugees near Damascus tell a different story.

Women raped, summary executions

They spoke of adult males being arbitrarily detained, of women being raped by regime troops and their paramilitary supporters and of summary executions.

Refugees said water and electricity were cut off in Baba Amr throughout the government assault.

Several women said they were forced to sell their jewellery to survive and many fled with simply the clothes on their backs.

Mounir, 24, and Majid, 30, two activists said they helped smuggle numerous families out of Homs.