Khalil, 24 years old

I have been in Lebanon for 3 and a half years. I came here when there was a chance the regime army would destroy my village and arrest me there, in Tel Kelekh in Halaat, around February 2012.

Since I was just a student here, I did not have difficulties arriving. I used my student identification and entered Lebanon legally. I took a road from Tel Kelekh to Halaat and then from Mashairfe to Akkar. Finally I arrived in Tripoli. 

The picture I brought with me is of my cousin, who tried to cross into Lebanon a few days after me, but drowned in a river during the attempt. He had been my friend since childhood. He took this picture 12 years ago when he obtained his first passport because he was going to travel to Kuwait. It was a passport picture. He gave it to me at the time and I have kept it ever since. I used to keep it in my wallet with my ID and carte de visite wherever I went. I think he was in 5th grade at the time, 11 or 12 years old. 

My cousin decided to come to Lebanon because there was no way he could have handled any more bombings. Since he was a Lebanese national, he was worried sick because it was so tense and he was afraid of being arrested as a Salafi terrorist fighting on the side of the Free Syrian Army and ‘terrorists’. He decided to take the smugglers’ road through the river instead of the official crossing. It was raining heavily that night. When he was almost on the other side of the river he was surprised by a wave that swept him away. We tried to help him [from the other side] but the difficult weather prevented us from reaching him. We later found his dead body at the side of the river. For me, it was a tragic loss. He died just because he did not want to risk being arrested by the thugs of the regime. 

I do not think I can go back to Syria before the regime is toppled. Then we could go back in dignity. I used to be humiliated at checkpoints by soldiers because my father had been arrested. They were always saying that I was smuggling information in my laptop. They always searched my laptop and books, and took them to the officer for a secondary search. That goes for all the checkpoints from my home to the borders. Sometimes, to get rid of them, I would go without carrying anything just to avoid this treatment. I left my mobile phone card with my cousin in the picture because he was of Lebanese nationality, which meant they would not give him as much of a hard time as they gave me.

I think there is a risk if I go back now. All the men in my family are wanted by the regime. At least 6 of them have already been arrested, even before the revolution. My father too, afterwards. I am due for military service but of course I am not going to serve in that army.

The regime thinks my village is hosting terrorists. My friends were killed by the army and their families have not received their bodies yet. It is risky for me to go back right now. Also, I am doing more things from here than what I can do inside. The situation there is really bad and I would be living under siege. My hands would be tied.