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Turkey refugee camp provides Syrian conflict -

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Turkey refugee camp provides Syrian conflict insight

Broadcast: 26/03/2012

Reporter: Peter Cave

While Turkey hosts a meeting of 60 countries considering action on unrest within Syria, refugee
camps show a close up view of what is happening, and a warning that this report contains some
distressing images.


CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: Tales of bloodshed and atrocity continue to pour in from Syria, where
8,000 people have died in the year-old uprising. An international push to oust the regime of
President Bashar al-Assad is gaining pace, as 60 Western and Arab countries prepare to meet to
discuss supporting the Syrian rebels. But the opposition has been weekend by internal rivalries and
has so far failed to present a united front. Foreign Affairs editor Peter Cave travelled to a
refugee camp and rebel stronghold on the Turkish-Syrian border to file this report, and a warning:
it does contain distressing images.

PETER CAVE, REPORTER: The Turkish Red Crescent already has nine tent cities along the 900 kilometre
border with Syria and it's making preparations for more permanent accommodation for up to half a
million people as Bashar al-Assad's tanks and artillery move relentlessly ahead, crushing dissent
town by town and village by village.

The Syrian Arab Spring is moving towards its second summer and there's no prospect that these
people will be returning home soon.

Wassim Sabagh is a web designer from Homs who was working in New York when the uprising began.
Fearing for the safety of his family, he tried unsuccessfully to return home, but for the last five
months, this tent has been home.

Have you heard from your family in Homs since then?


PETER CAVE: So you don't know what's happened to them?

WASSIM SABAGH: I'm trying to call them every day, but the phone lines, as well as the cell phones,
out of service everywhere in Homs.

PETER CAVE: What sort of stories are you hearing from people who are coming into this camp from
places like Homs?

WASSIM SABAGH: Um, it's terrible. It's terrible. It's inhuman. They were setting fire in people
alive and cutting people's arms and destroying houses regardless there are families inside or not.
So it's horrible.

PETER CAVE: What's it like in the camp? What's life like here?

WASSIM SABAGH: You think you are living a nightmare. You don't care about (inaudible) for real, I
mean about what do you eat or what dp you - how you sleep? You just forget about all these,
because, like, it's a nightmare. And looking for an end, no matter how.

PETER CAVE: The Syrian opposition has been able to turn out tens of thousands on the streets week
after week to oppose the Assad regime despite more than a year of often brutal repression. The UN
human rights body described it as sustained and systematic attacks against civilian populations,
including the killing of peaceful demonstrators, torture and mutilation of detainees including
women and children and extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

Footage uploaded to the internet often shows small victories by the Free Syrian Army. But the fact
is that the FSA is poorly equipped, poorly organised and losing the battle against the Syrian
Army's overwhelming force and artillery.

This the Turkish-Syrian border. Across the valley is a Syrian Army guard post. On the hill, just
over yonder, is a Turkish guard post. It overlooks a village. When we spoke to the villagers they
told us that earlier today there was an Iranian flag flying from the Syrian guard post. They've
also told us that a group of fighters from the Free Syrian Army have come across overnight and
they're now sheltering in a basement under one of the houses.

They crept across the border under the cover of darkness the previous night. This comrade didn't
make it. He died in a fire fight with what they insist were Iranians fighting alongside Bashar
al-Assad's forces. They're collecting such meagre food and medicine supplies that they can before
returning to the battle and their AK-47s. Their leader calls himself Abu Mustapha.

ABU MUSTAPHA, FREE SYRIAN ARMY (voiceover translation): It is really bad there. It is common to
come across dead people, injured ones. People are killed, are kidnapped. It is a terrible
situation. What we want from foreign countries is to give us arms since this regime can only be
defeated by armed struggle.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Peter Cave with that report.