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October 25, 2012

Syrian Refugees Struggle in Jordanian Camps

by Setareh Sieg

Jordan is bearing a huge burden of refugees as the crisis escalates in neighboring Syria. More than 38,000 Syrian refugees have taken shelter in the United Nations-run Zaatari camp in northern Jordan.  Many are suffering from a lack of water and proper sanitary conditions and from frequent desert sand storms.

Up until August of this year, Ahmad was a colonel in the Syrian Army. But when his village in Daraa was attacked by the Syrian air force, he decided to cross the border into Jordan with his wife and five children to the Zaatari Refugee Camp.

He has since joined the Free Syrian Army...Ahmad blames Iran, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Hezbollah for the regime's survival.

"Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah are helping Assad. Most of the weapons that the Syrian army has are Iranian weapons and the trainers are Iranian Republican," Ahmad said.

The Pentagon has raised concerns about the growing presence of Iran in Syria saying it is training a militia to help the regime battle the rebels.

At the camp's French-run medical clinic, one man, who would not give his name, said he was shot by a sniper in Damascus and had his leg amputated. "I saw my cousin die. I saw a lot of people die. It's very bad.  I want the President to go," he said.

Other refugees describe scenes of slaughtered civilians and executed rebel fighters.

Karen Whiting of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees says close to 500 refugees arrive at the camp every night.

“Right now we are getting ready to provide for the winter which means getting more of these prefab houses you see right here.  And for those people who do not get a house we will provide winterized tents," Whiting said.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have also sought refuge across the country's borders with Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.

With Iran's support for Bashar al-Assad - and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries such as Qatar backing the opposition, some fear that Syria could become the scene of a long civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites that would destabilize the region.

For refugees like Ahmad, a resolution leading to victory can come from any quarter.

"Even if the action comes from Israel,  we would accept it to get rid of Bashar.  Israel even in its fight with Gaza did not kill as much as Bashar killed.  Since the day of Israeli occupation they did not kill as much as Bashar has killed,” Ahmad said.

The Assad government says it is trying to protect the Syrian people from the rebels whom it characterizes as terrorists.