Human rights activists increasingly are voicing alarm over reports of abuse and torture in Syria, where an uprising against the government has entered its second year. Syrian refugees in Jordan confirm such reports.
Khalaf Rshaidat, a 38-year-old Syrian interior decorator, is sitting on a bed in a cold apartment in Irbid, northern Jordan. Rshaidat says he was organizing anti-government demonstrations in his hometown of Daraa, in southern Syria, when a bullet shattered his leg.
He says he was arrested when he went to the hospital, which really was a detention center. His interrogators cut off part of his toe with metal clippers. He says they wanted him to confess that he was part of a terrorist organization, al-Qaida, which he says is not true.
Rshaidat says a doctor at the hospital helped him escape and he sneaked into Jordan. Many of the people he saw detained in the hospital, he believes, are dead.
Human rights report
The Amnesty International human rights group this week released a report based on the testimony of Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Amnesty says Syrian authorities are responsible for the abuse, which the authorities deny. The government says it is battling armed terrorist groups.
The Amnesty report says incidence of torture has risen to alarming levels in Syria since the popular uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began one year ago .
The author of the report, Neil Sammonds, says the abuses appear to be ordered at highest levels of the Syrian government.
"The fact that it happens across the country and across the security agencies and the armed forces leads one to the assumption that the regime is directing this. It knows it's going on and it's encouraging its guards and security officers to do this," he said.
The report supports the findings of United Nations human rights investigators who last month accused Syrian security forces of crimes against humanity, including murder and torture.
Khaled Ghizawi, a 26-year-old vegetable vendor from Daraa, has also come to Jordan seeking medical treatment. A white bandage covers the stump at the end of his right arm. A patch covers his left eye which now is blind.
He says he was on the main street where he has his shop. The soldiers came through randomly throwing hand grenades and shooting in all directions. A grenade exploded in front of him.
He says he was not a demonstrator, but government troops and militias are now attacking everyone in opposition areas.
Qusai Zu'bi, a 24-year-old mechanic from Taybeh, near Daraa, sneaked into Jordan after a sniper's bullet shattered his thigh-bone.
He says he was on the road going to work when suddenly a Syrian army car passed him. The people inside started shooting in all directions -- at children, women, men, unarmed people.
Ali Hamad, a refugee from Hama, in central Syria, says the situation has worsened since the Syrian military launched an offensive to regain control of opposition-held areas.
He says the situation is terrible, with killing and massacring. He says pro-government forces are slaughtering soldiers who defect from the army.
Amnesty International says while abuses by armed opposition groups have been reported, most of the abuses appear to have been committed by security forces and militias loyal to the government.
Hope to return home
But Sammonds says the crackdown has only hardened the resolve of the dissidents.
“Most have said, ' We've shaken off the fear. And the more we are abused, the more we want to continue to make sure that the regime does change.',” said the author of the report.
The refugees said they want to return to Syria. Some said the would go home if the violence stopped. But many said they wanted as soon as possible to rejoin the struggle against the Syrian government.