“A Syrian Refugee’s Epic Escape from Syria,” by Nicholas Schmidle for the New Yorker Magazine:
In 2012, the Syrian civil war reached the suburbs of Damascus. Army tanks rolled over anti-government protesters in Ghouta; artillery shells fell on Darayya. One morning that May, a car bomb exploded in the town of Jdeidet Artouz, southwest of the capital. The blast jolted Ghaith, a twenty-two-year-old law student, out of bed. He lived in a two-bedroom apartment with his mother; his father had died when he was an infant, and his siblings—four sisters and a brother, all older—had left the house after getting married. Ghaith stepped to the window and pulled back the curtain. Across the street, a sedan was spewing flames. Body parts littered the road.
The victim was Ghaith’s neighbor, an Alawite man whom rebels had apparently targeted for assassination. In the weeks that followed, the government crackdown intensified. One of Ghaith’s nieces, a teen-ager, was imprisoned for posting a comment on Facebook that condemned a barrel-bomb attack by the Syrian Air Force on civilians in Homs. Government agents snatched two of Ghaith’s friends off the street and took them away. That August, the Army moved into Jdeidet Artouz and massacred dozens of people.
Ghaith studied criminal law at the University of Damascus, and hoped to become a judge. But simply commuting to class had become an ordeal. At one point, the bus he took travelled on a road that formed the boundary between regime territory and rebel territory. Rival sniper bullets frequently pinged the sides of the bus. “We ducked our heads as we drove through,” Ghaith recalls…