Syrian refugees tell of government atrocities

Syrian's flee for Turkey reugee camps

The Syrian dictator is slaughtering his own people to keep a grip on the power his family has held for 40 years. A slow but persistent rebellion started back in March. And now there is a new surge in violence near the Turkish border.

American reporters can't get into Syria, but the Associated Press quotes activists as saying at least 32 people were killed Friday. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer has reached the Syrian refugees who have fled the violence and heard their stories.

It's a short but traumatic bus ride to safety for these frightened Syrian families. More than 3,000 of them have crossed the border, and are now facing an uncertain future living in tents.

Once again anti-government protests erupted across Syria. Activists posted their videos on YouTube.

But in Yayladagi camp, the refugees are hearing of atrocities that no one has pictures of.

Turkish police don't let journalists talk to them directly; so we contacted one man by phone who told us Syrian troops had attacked the city today with tanks and fired on women and children. "Oh, please" he said, breaking down "help us."

In the months since the antigovernment protests began, human rights organizations say the Syrian military has fired on unarmed civilians and beaten and tortured prisoners.

They estimate 1,300 have been killed. But the government's brutality and overconfidence just seems to deepen resentment among the people..

Just a few minutes ago, somebody told the refugees that Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, had stepped down.

And they're ecstatic - but it's not true.

But it shows where their sympathies lie.

In a nearby hospital, we slipped into the room of a young Syrian man still in shock with multiple gunshot wounds.

Terrified of being identified on camera, he told us Syrian troops had fired on mourners at the funeral of a protestor just over the border.

With all foreign journalists barred from Syria, it's impossible to verify these accounts.

But the Turkish government is taking them very seriously.

They're already building two new refugee camps, bracing for 10,000 more people running for their lives.

Late Friday, reports were coming in of an especially large pro-democracy rally on the Syrian side of the border near the tent city, a protest which was broken up with extreme violence by the Syrian military. Five people were reported to have been killed.

Sources have told Palmer that Syria is not allowing refugees to freely leave the country. The refugees are forced to pick their way across the fields but they're not being allowed to get to the main border crossing. In effect, Syrian troops are penning them inside their country

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."