When he awoke he had been shot five times, but was still alive. His captors had gone. He could see in the darkness that his fellow prisoners had toppled forward into the dirt, still in their lines, most shot through their heads. He checked five or six of the bodies, but all were dead. Their blood had soaked into the soil.
“I was very, very lucky. I thanked Allah. Fainting probably saved me. They thought I was dead,” he said.
At that point in his story, Mohammed stood up and removed his shirt for the benefit of his audience.
There was a livid scar where a bullet had entered his chest and exited through his right shoulder.
He showed another bullet wound above his right buttock, and two in his right calf.
A fifth bullet passed through his left earlobe. He was drenched in blood, he continued, but no bones were broken and he felt no pain.
Terrified that he would be seen and recaptured, he fled the scene, avoiding roads until he reached a village. Not knowing whether it was for or against the regime, he knocked on a door and told the men inside that he had been shot by robbers. They drove him to a hospital in Aleppo in a Suzuki four- wheel drive.
It was 2am, and he borrowed a mobile to call his brother who arrived at 6am and whisked him home. From there, the Free Syrian Army spirited him north to Turkey, where he was treated in a hospital in Kilis.
For several months after his escape Mohammed could not sleep. He is still deaf in his left ear, and grieves for his fellow prisoners, but has recovered otherwise.
Today he lives in limbo. He has no wish to return to Syria – “the country I knew has been destroyed,” he said. He cannot return to Beirut because the regime took his passport.
Two months ago, he moved to Reyhanli because he has relatives there. Eleven days ago, a doctor there found and removed a bullet that was still lodged in his calf, and Mohammed produced it for us to inspect.
In Beirut, he said, he used to believe President Assad’s propaganda about the rebels being “terrorists” and dismissed as lies the stories of regime atrocities he saw on the al-Jazeera news channel.
“Now I can’t find the words to describe how I feel about the regime. What they do disgusts me. It makes me cry in my heart, not just in my eyes. I want what happened to me to happen to them. I want to see them lined up and executed.”