Khalid is too frightened of travelling the 100 miles from Homs to Damascus to ask officials if they know what happened to his three sons, who disappeared 16 months ago as government troops over-ran the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr. He has not heard anything from them since and does not know if they are alive or dead, though he has repeatedly asked the authorities in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, about them.
Khalid, a thick-set man of 60 with grizzled white hair – who used to be a construction worker until he injured his back – says he dare not make the journey to Damascus because “as soon as the soldiers at the checkpoints on the road see I come from a place like Baba Amr, with a reputation for supporting the rebels, they are likely to arrest me”. He explains that he cannot risk being detained because he has a wife and four daughters who rely on him. He is the last man left in his family since his sons went missing.