BOHSIN, Turkey — The dull thud of the Syrian military shells woke me in the Bohsin refuge camp at about three in the morning.
Across the tent, Wasim Sabbagh, a Syrian Christian from the province of Homs, did not stir. But across the Orontes River, which separates Turkey and Syria, people were dying as we slept, in numbers impossible to verify because the Syrian government denies independent observers access to the country. The United Nations says that "well over" 7,500 people have lost their lives during the yearlong uprising.
Life in the refugee camp -- a life spent hoping President Bashar al-Assad will soon fall -- has become routine. Sabbagh's friends compare the different brands of tuna provided to them by Turkish aid workers, watch the pigeons one man keeps in a homemade cage, and, of course, follow the latest horrible news from inside Syria.
For many months, Syrian refugees who work with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were allowed to go and come as they pleased. But according to refugees and activists, in the past several days -- as Syrian tanks and military vehicles appeared on the border -- Turkish officials have begun more aggressively controlling the refugees. The activists say that they have been warned that those without prior approval to send humanitarian aid across the border would be detained and sent to a camp for troublesome refugees.
"We are afraid," says a refugee from the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour. Initially, he had been relieved when he arrived in Turkey nine months ago, but now he feels trapped and unsure what to do next. "We don't look at [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan as the whole government. I am not defending Erdogan, but this is the reality. We confirm there is a secret relation between the Turkish security forces and the Syrian security forces."
Like so many of their kin in Syria, the approximately 11,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey are struggling to survive a conflict that has turned increasingly bloody and defined by sectarian loyalties. The refugees' numbers appear likely to grow as Assad's security forces escalate their crackdown. Following the regime's assault on the restive city of Homs, U.N. officials warned that as many as 2,000 Syrians were preparing to flee to Lebanon. And with Syria's northern governorate of Idlib looking like the next arena for a confrontation between Assad and the opposition, Turkey could be in store for another influx of refugees.
The smuggling routes to Turkey are also coming under increased pressure as Assad clamps down on Syria's north. Local smugglers, who bring supplies into Syria and the wounded out, are charging between $500 and $1,000 per person to get journalists into the country. When the Syrian military reinforced the border area, some smugglers disappeared. A local FSA commander says he does not need more journalists -- he needs guns.
Sabbagh, like many caught up in this war, wants to know why the world hasn't done more to end Syrians' suffering.
"Why is the international community silent? Do the Syrian people have tails?" Sabbagh says. One day, he bent over and suddenly vomited on the side of the road. The cause, most likely, is a mixture of stress and cold.
Sabbagh's camp of 1,700 people is all Sunni except for himself, he says. The refugees know the international community is wary of regional sectarian conflict, but incorporating Syria's minority groups into the revolution is easier said than done.
"The regime is using the Alawite people to kill the other people; it's a normal reaction toward this," Sabbagh says of Sunni-Alawi sectarian violence. "They are killing just because they are Alawites. We have the right to say the Alawites are killing the other people."