The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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December 23, 2011

iloubnan- Braving death, Syria's wounded make their way to Lebanon, December 23, 2011

Fighting bitter cold as he trudged across rugged border terrain laced with landmines and snipers, Abu Hamdo clutched his bleeding groin for 11 hours as he was smuggled from Syria into Lebanon.
In an apartment transformed into a clinic in the northern district of Akkar, 25-year-old Abu Hamdo is now being treated for a gunshot to his genitals, sustained during a protest in his native village of Qusair in eastern Syria.
"State hospitals in Syria have turned into military barracks," said the unshaven young man, seated on a mattress on the apartment's bare floor.
"Anyone who enters and who is not military personnel is killed on the spot," he told AFP.
"Protesters shot during the rallies are treated like armed rebels because, to the regime, the protests are more dangerous than any arms."
Abu Hamdo is among dozens of wounded Syrians smuggled into Lebanon daily via secret routes carved out by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a group of army deserters demanding Assad step down.
Those who make it are taken in by Lebanese who have set up makeshift clinics to accommodate the wounded refugees fleeing a brutal crackdown on protesters by the Assad regime.
Abu Hamdo, who was left with a limp from his bullet wound, tells a horrific tale of the events back home and the dangerous path those like him trek to find a safe haven.
He was wounded last month in an protest in Qusair, 12 kilometres (7 miles) from the Lebanese border. He was taken to a covert first aid center in a neighbour's house before making his way into Lebanon with the help of smugglers who carried him when he was too weak to walk.
"The bullet wound hurt beyond words, to the point that I just hoped I would pass out so I wouldn't have to feel anything," he said.
Syrians like Abu Hamdo in recent weeks have made it across the border with help from the FSA, which is dependent on trusted soldiers sympathetic to their cause to point them in the direction of the safest crossing route.
"Our task at the border is to ensure that the injured make it across non-official routes," said one FSA soldier in Qusair.
"We try to avoid clashes with the (loyalist) army as much as possible," he told AFP in Beirut by telephone.
"We open fire only when necessary, and that is only to secure a path for an injured protester."
For Syrians like Abu Fida, arrested at a rally in the protest hub of Homs in March and tortured in detention, survival was an unlikely outcome.
"An officer with the security services dragged me over and commanded me to declare that Bashar was my god," said the young man with deep scars running across his head and face.
"I told him I had no God but Allah. He then slashed my face with a knife.
He told me to say Bashar was my God. I told him Allah was my God. He then went for my skull."
Abu Fida was barely conscious when he was found and taken to hospital, but he says he remembers the scene vividly.
"I could hear the screams all the time," said Abu Fida, who says he witnessed officers and even nurses and doctors beating wounded protesters.
"What I saw was not a hospital, but a abattoir where people were being tortured and slaughtered like animals."
Because of his bloody face and skull, security services who regularly patrolled the hospital believed he was dead and ordered his body be sent back to his family.
Instead, his friends and family took him straight to a secret clinic in Homs.
In November, Abu Fida was back on his feet and attended another protest where his legs were riddled with bullets. This time, his peers arranged for him to be sent into Lebanon for medical treatment.
Shortly before we arrived at the border, a mine exploded and killed a Lebanese man who was helping wounded Syrians cross over," he told AFP. "We followed his footprints because we knew that route would be safe.
"May God rest his soul."
Medical professionals across eastern and northern Lebanon estimate that dozens of wounded Syrian protesters cross the border every week, needing immediate medical care and a safe place to recuperate.
"We accommodated 25 wounded Syrians last week alone at a flat, or now a clinic, that we run here in the village of Qaa," said pharmacist Ahmed al-Hujairi, referring to his hometown in eastern Lebanon.
Most refugees, however, head straight for the north which has a majority Sunni population largely supportive of the anti-Assad protests.
From his mattress in Akkar, Abu Fida is counting the days until he can return to Syria.
"When I finish my treatment here, I will return to Syria to protest," he says. "I will protest until the fall of Bashar al-Assad."

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