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Syrian Children Find Shelter in Turkey Camp

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Rudi Bakhtiar

Syrians of all ages are trying to flee their country to escape the violence there.

Reyhanli Refugee Camp in Turkey, just across the Syrian border, is home to more than 3,000 refugees, many of them children.

The Turkish government provides the basics - even a school, a playground and some modest toys.

At first glance, the kids are playful, giving the V sign for victory every chance they get.  But inside the small tents these children now call home, the reality of their lives is harder to hide.

Mustafa Harmoush, 14, came to Turkey with his family eight months ago.

HARMOUSH: "We came by car, and were picked up by three Turkish soldiers and brought to the camp."

REPORTER: "What do you do here?"

HARMOUSH: "Nothing."

Mustafa is the nephew of one the first defectors from Bashar al-Assad's army who was kidnapped and brought back to Syria and forced to confess on national television.

His older cousin was killed and found tied to a tree.

Mustafa's eyes quickly filled with tears when I asked him about Syria.

"They arrested my uncles and killed my uncles," Mustafa said.

Sara, 13, recently arrived here from Homs, the focus of an intense military crackdown. She says shelling destroyed her home.

"There was blood all over the place," Sara recalled.  "The government was killing people because they thought they were armed.  But they were not armed. They were peaceful civilians."

Sara says she quit school and leave Homs because the situation for the children, especially the young girls, was extremely dangerous.

"When the revolution started, the regime started abducting students, especially girls. It was too dangerous to go to school. It was like walking on fire," Sara added.

In a letter addressed to her president, Sara writes: "Bashar leave us alone. We are not animals. You make me want to die from grief."

The United Nations says over 400 children have been killed and hundreds injured since the violence began last year. But there is no way to measure the extent of the psychological damage.

The scars of the brutality they've witnessed is painfully evident, not just in their faces, but in their drawings, their playing, and in even in their dreams.

Radwan Hamoudeh, 12, from Idlib insisted he be interviewed.

REPORTER: "What do you want to be when you grow up?

HAMOUDEH: "I want to be a soldier to protect Syria.  Because people are being killed in Syria, and no one is saying anything. These are people. They are human."

Radwan says he's very proud of his father and his uncle who are both members of the Free Syria Army.

HAMOUDEH: "We'd like to be freed from Bashar and this violence in Syria"

REPORTER: "Do you want to go back to Syria?"

HAMOUDEH: "Of course I want to go back."

Despite the tragedy of their past and the hardship of their present, these children here still hold on to hope for their future, hope that they will one day return to a Syria free of violence.

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