Sunday, March 04, 2012

Edith Bouvier Escapes from Homs

by: Damien Pearse and agencies

Journalist was left taped to a stretcher inside the tunnel rebels had dung to smuggle her out when Syrian forces bombed it

The French journalist Edith Bouvier feared her escape from the besieged Syrian city of Homs had come to an end after the tunnel through which she was smuggled came under bombardment from Assad's forces.

Her leg broken by a shell, which killed the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Rémi Ochlik days earlier, Bouvier was abandoned, taped to a makeshift stretcher, as rebels and dozens of wounded fled the explosions and headed back to Baba Amr district.

"One of them placed his Kalashnikov on me. He put his hand on my head and said a prayer. It wasn't very reassuring. Then he left," Bouvier told Le Figaro newspaper, for which she was working in Syria.

"I didn't know what was going to happen. Was the exit blocked? Were Syrian soldiers going to enter? I wanted to run away before remembering that I was taped to a stretcher."

Bouvier and the French photographer William Daniels, who stayed with her throughout, were finally rescued by a rebel who drove down the 1.6-metre high tunnel on a motorbike and carried them back to Baba Amr.

With the tunnel blocked and Baba Amr close to falling to the army, the two journalists, the objects of a manhunt after their faces were broadcast on Syrian television, decided to risk everything by slipping out of the city in a vehicle under cover of darkness.

"We were exhausted, physically and mentally. We had to get out of there," Bouvier said. Details of their escape route were not published by the newspaper to protect those who helped them.

Moving from safe house to safe house, changing vehicles frequently and taking rocky mountain roads amid a snowstorm, it took the journalists and their rebel escort four days to travel the 25 miles to the Lebanese border. Everywhere strangers greeted them by name, welcoming them warmly.

"They really put themselves in danger for us. They did everything for us," said Bouvier, who called her parents as soon as she crossed into Lebanon under cover of darkness. "I didn't tell them where I was, just that I was safe and sound."

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