Syrian refugee: Let Assad suffer, not die

syria, refugee, turkey
A Syrian family flees across the border into Turkey
CBS News

(CBS News) KILIS REFUGEE CAMP, Turkey - In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad made a rare appearance on television Tuesday. He hasn't been seen much lately, as he tries to hold his regime together and crush a popular uprising.

Meanwhile, the civil war intensified throughout Syria. As many as 19,000 people have died since the rebellion began a year and a half ago, and many more have fled the country.

The surprise appearance on television was Assad's first appearance in public in nearly three weeks, but the Syrian president's meeting with Iran's security chief looked like business as usual.

There's no sign that Assad is giving up the fight for control of his country. In Aleppo and other cities Tuesday, government forces pounded areas held by the rebels.

This bloody civil war has already forced nearly two million Syrians to flee their homes.

In the Kilis Camp on Turkey's border, many of the refugees have been here for more than a year. Many told CBS News their homes were bombed by the government, and their husbands' names were placed on a government blacklist for supporting the opposition. When asked about President Assad, they said they don't want him dead, because that would be too easy.

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"Let him taste the suffering that we have," said Hajar Bakbak through a translator. "We hope that he and his whole family are humiliated, just as he has humiliated us."

More than a thousand new refugees crossed the border to Turkey Tuesday, joining the 44,000 already here.

Refugee Fatma Ahmed told CBS News government forces bombed her house, and that if President Assad can't be killed, she wants to die herself, to escape the hardship.

She said she's worried for her son. He stayed behind to fight with the rebels. Some of the families fleeing across the border were too frightened to speak with a CBS News crew.

They don't know who will win this conflict, and they said they're scared of retribution.

They escape with their children and a few possessions, but as they cross the border to safety, many also bring the hatred of the man they blame for leaving them homeless.

On Monday, the Syrian prime minister defected. The next day, Turkish authorities confirmed that yet another Syrian general had defected across the border. With him were five other Syrian military officers, as well as relatives and supporters that total around 400 people. It all adds to the sense that the Syrian regime is crumbling, but caution needs to be taken because President Assad is still in control of one of the biggest and best-equipped militaries in the Middle East.