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Syrian civilian: Why is our president killing us?

By Arwa Damon, CNN
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Witness to murder in Syria
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Civilians flee violence of Syria's military crackdown to camp near Turkish border
  • Pregnant woman tells CNN she saw military kill a lawyer in the streets
  • Pharmacist set up makeshift camp clinic but has few medicines
  • Syria denies a crackdown on democracy campaigners; it says it is targeting terrorist gangs

Near Khirbet al-Jouz, Syria (CNN) -- "I know that God created human beings to live in this world in a liberal way. Why does one man and his family control all these people?" the 22-year-old asks, her voice quivering with anger and fear.

She is crammed into a minivan with family and friends and asks that we call her Nour. It's not her real name, but she is too terrified of repercussions to be identified.

She has a degree in English literature and is expecting her first child. All she wants, she says, is to be free and allowed to live her life.

Her anger is aimed at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, who have launched a military crackdown in the region. The regime says it is fighting terrorists, but the people who fled the violence say the targets are democracy protesters and civilians.

Despite the Syrian government's repeated refusal to give CNN and other international news organizations permission to enter the country, we crossed the Turkish border into northwestern Syria for a few hours on Tuesday.

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Nour has come to this rudimentary camp tucked alongside the Turkish border because she says if she stays at home, she will die.

"I come here, this circumstance is so difficult. I am pregnant, I cannot bear such things, I (will) have a nervous breakdown," she says.

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Her hands shake as she speaks about what she has seen just outside her house in Latakia -- Syrian security forces shooting at unarmed demonstrators.

"We have a window and in the window they (were) shooting the window with fire," she said. "If I was sleeping under the window, I will lose myself and I will die. We go down to the kitchen and we sneak to the kitchen on our stomach."

The Syrian government has consistently maintained it is simply targeting armed gangs. Activists say that's a lie to justify their brutal crackdown. On Friday, activists and eyewitnesses reported the government onslaught to be especially bloody.

On that day, Nour says a lawyer was gunned down by the military in front of her, for no apparent reason.

She said: "He doesn't want to go to the protest, he wanted to visit his sister. And then they shoot him. People come to take him to hospital and then they return him dead."

And she says she can't shake the image of his car with blood seeping out of it.

Nour is now waiting to cross into Turkey, where, although she will be cut off from her homeland, at least she will be safe.

At least 8,400 refugees have already crossed into Turkey, according to Turkey's disaster and emergency management directorate.

Turkish PM, Syrian envoy meet as refugee numbers mount

Hundreds more chose to camp out on the Syrian side of the border. Some are waiting for word of loved ones lost in the chaos. Others dreading the finality of crossing the border are hoping something will change so they can return home.

Family after family shares similar stories. The majority of those here fled the military crackdown in Jisr al-Shugur and the surrounding villages.

Tarps crudely strung between trees or erected with branches are all most have for shelter.

In one tent we meet five families, around 30 people, crammed together. They tell us they were forced to spend the entire night on their feet after a downpour turned the ground to mud.

Mohammed Merri has a makeshift field clinic stocked with supplies he brought with him from his pharmacy in Jisr al-Shugur.

He stays on the Syrian side of the border to help those in need, but he says what he is really providing is psychological aid. He lacks the real medicine to do much more.

"My biggest problem is the children, and people with heart disease. I don't have the medicine for that," he says.

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Under another tent we meet a woman, who doesn't want her name used, lamenting about how the Syrian security forces burned her family's field and destroyed their homes.

It was part of a campaign, those here believe, to punish the people for daring to stand up to the regime.

One man we spoke to points to his 10-year-old daughter and says: "Just because she dared demonstrate and say freedom, she has given herself a death sentence."

As our conversation with Nour ends, she asks, "Why is our president killing us? Killing our brothers and sisters and taking them to prison? Why? I just want to ask him this question."

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