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article imageSyrian refugees — the human story Special

By Russell Chapman     Jun 20, 2014 in Politics
Today, June 20, is "World Refugee Day." It is important we do not forget the suffering of people who have the same hopes and dreams as we do. They are people like us, many are educated but circumstances have forced them to flee their country.
We are very good at turning a blind eye to refugees. Often they are from a different race, language and religion, somehow different to us. However, when you look under the surface, people are people, human nature and desire crosses all borders. I spent time in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and am privileged to know Abdullah al-Zoubi (pictured) as well as several members of his family. Look at his picture — he is like so many other young men around the world. I asked him to talk about himself, his experience of the situation in Syria since we last met and how it is to be a Syrian refugee in Jordan. Below I give you his words exactly, I won't correct his English, what he says is powerful enough as it is.
"My name is Abdullah Al-Zoubi from Dara’a, Southern of Syria. Dara’a is where the revolution has started in that country. I’m a 23 year-old Muslim, who was raised in a rural area as many Syrian families. Before the Syrian revolution, I was studying finance and accounting at Damascus University. I had been locally displaced with my family inside Syria before I became a refugee in Jordan due to the military operations and the continuous fights in our area. I was obliged to flee from Syria through the official Syria-Jordanian borders. I had to pay some money for the Syrian officials on the border checkpoint in order not to be arrested because I was one of the wanted people due to my peaceful activities on the ground, including the universities. The war in Syria had turned my life completely. I lost my academic life and in consequence my future ambitions and dreams. I have lost a lot of my relative and friends because of the war, where some of them were killed, detained or unknowingly lost.
During this war, I was no longer a regular person. I became a civil society and human rights activist. My start was with the Local Coordination Committee (LCC) and then I and other university students founded the Union of Free Syrian Students (UFSS) in order to monitor and supervise on the revolutionary movement at the universities. We basically planned the peaceful protests and the awareness campaigns in addition to documenting the student rights violations done by the Syrian regime inside the universities. Also, we tried our best to picturing what is going on inside the universities and deliver it to the world through all means. The UFSS is still carrying on in this task and it extended its job to outside Syria, especially the neighboring countries. The UFSS is present in many regional and foreign countries where its civil work takes different shapes. The advantage of the UFSS is that it’s a melting pot of ethnicities, religions, and beliefs where all of its members work for the future of Syria.
I flew out of Syria about a year and half ago and I became a refugee in Jordan as I mentioned above. My journey of fleeing from Syria was easier than others who faced difficulties. Some families had to walk tens and hundreds of miles just to run away from the military operation areas. They had to cross unofficial border areas to get in to Jordan. It wasn’t only that, but also they had to be super careful out of the snipers, mortar shells, and missiles from the Syrian regime’s side. When the refugees reach to the Jordanian side of the border, the Jordanian army hand them to the UNRWA in order to be place in camps. This “journey” may take more than a week depending on the hardship the refugees face, number of members in the family, and the psychological status of the individual. After I reached to Jordan, I continued what I was doing in Syria but this time inside the camps. I was present in the famous, not conditionally good Zaatari camp in a daily basis. I couldn’t stay permanently in this camp because it had tents that doesn’t warm in the winter and doesn’t cold off in the summer. The Syrian refugees have been transferred into the heart of the desert, where there is no basic components of a good standard life for the human. I had to leave the camp and live at my relative house because the condition in the camp wasn’t acceptable at all. It was heartbreaking to see the Syrian families who got used to live an entertaining live inside Syria to suffer and struggle for the basic requirements in order to stay alive. The situation in the camp was so miserable at all levels: there is lack of food and water and the health care services were below average. You could see all kinds of people like the orphans; families who ran away only with their clothes, non-employed men, kids and youth are not able to continue their studies, and the wounded people who are unable of moving and people with special needs.
I have worked with the Syrian activists in order to improve the level of the camp and provide the Syrian families with their needs such as blankets, food, drink, pills, educational centers, etc. One of my friends mentioned to me that the work in the first few months was so exhausting and overwhelming, but it became better when the international organizations involved in the humanitarian aid. The 200,000 refugees didn’t choose to live in the camp; they were forced to go there because of the war. The level of their scariness increased whenever a day passes. The people who went to the camp don’t expect to stay there forever but they are afraid to be settled in Zaatari because the war is getting intense. However, I have noticed that there is a big hope and ambition to return back home. What children say and the actions of the camp’s residents give a hint that they are not planning to stay in it permanently.
One of the shocking situations that I faced is when I met a friend who just joined the camp. He was injured by a missile by the Syrian regime and as a result he couldn’t move anymore. Not only that, he also lost his mom and two of his siblings. You can barely find someone in the camp who didn’t lose a friend or a relative out of the fighting inside Syria. With a very slow pronunciation, he started telling me that he would return to his original healthy state and would walk as before as the doctors told him. His passion, expressions, and gestures would bring hope to you. He has patience and courage that I have never seen before. I could see Syria through his eyes and he reborn that feeling that you would go and rebuild Syria again because we are able to do that. You can sense that the Syrian refugees have recreated the life from nothing although the suffering. They established a street market that was called “Champs-Elysees” which in my opinion gives the impression of strong willingness they have. This could be also an irony of their political and humanitarian situation.
There are not so many organizations that assist the refugees. A few NGO, governmental organizations and international ones support the refugees, which is not enough according to the humongous number that the camp has. Maybe the coordination among the organizations is bad, or maybe the international funding is small by the UNRWA, but the confirmed thing is that it’s not the refugees’ mistake! The refugees always need to be taken care of and always need to have clothes. In the last winter, three kids died out of extreme cold weather and unexpected snow storm in the region. Every summer, a number of kids die due to infecting diseases. The hospitals in the camp are so simple and only prepared for simple cases and first aid issues. There is a lack of pills in the hospitals where a lot of people die because they need some kind of pills or a treatment that is doesn’t exist in the health centers.
A good number of the youth is at the university level and they couldn’t attend their universities in Syria because they are either followed by the security forces or fled out with their families. These youth haven’t been offered to join the universities inside Jordan. There must be ways to isolate them from the war atmosphere and nervousness. A high percentage of children are not attending schools at least to get them away from the unhealthy environment they see every day. The obstacle the children face is either the family can afford putting their children in the school or the child is an orphan and there is no one to take care of him or her. There are a lot of things that must be done inside the camp, especially the refugees where they need to go through rehabilitation process in order to overcome the negativity they always pass through. This and other projects need an international effort and can’t be done by non-funded small groups. Not finding solutions from the roots increases their suffering. There must be a serious plan like the one they had for the chemical weapons.
It’s so painful when the refugee feels that the country that is few miles away from him or her is far away and not reachable. Their country that bloodshed is increasing in a daily basis where the best name that Syria can be called is “The country of Death.” I don’t see any political solution in the range since the country is now divided between the rebels and the regimes. Each side has its regional and international supporters and they don’t care if the people are paying out of their blood.
However of everything, I still believe that I will see a recovered country, but the price is going to cost a lot of blood. At the refugee day, I hope we will not need it anymore, where each person on earth goes back to his or her land and home and be able to practice its rights freely without any fear from consequences. I hope I would return to my country, Syria, to continue my education and contribute in its re-construction along with my fellow refugees. If we stay one hand, Syria will be stronger than it was and I’m sure it will become the paradise of the earth."
More about Syria, syrian refugees, syrian conflict, Zaatari Refugee Camp, World refugee day
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