News / Middle East

In Jordan, Syrian Refugees Await Assad's Fall

Jordan's Syrian Refugees Await Assad's Falli
|| 0:00:00
X
Elizabeth Arrott
December 03, 2012 6:00 PM
There are more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan waiting for the conflict at home to end. As winter approaches, their needs increase and their situation grows more dire. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott reports.

Jordan's Syrian Refugees Await Assad's Fall

Elizabeth Arrott and Japhet Weeks
In a makeshift kitchen between refugee tents in Jordan, members of an extended family try to recreate some semblance of the life they left in Syria, before war tore apart their homeland. They are among more than 200,000 Syrians in Jordan waiting for the conflict to end.

Several women pat out dough for bread and cook it over an open fire. Om Ahmed, who cares for several children in the group, recalls their last days at home in el Sawra, in southern Syria.  

“It was very bad," she says. "They were hitting us with rockets and tanks and mortar shells.”

They tried to find a haven in towns nearby, but were forced to cross the border, settling at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. At the camp's playground, children have a place to run in safety, away from the bombing and firefights which have claimed an estimated 40,000 lives since early last year.

Preparing for winter

As winter approaches, the needs of Om Ahmed and her family grow.  

“Life is difficult, and each day we are asking for more things,” she says. “We want different tents. With these tents, if it rains, the water comes in on us.”

Others try to reinforce their tents with foam sheets, a half-measure as tens of thousands settle in for the winter. And more keep coming.

  • Children play at the Za'tari refugee camp on the Jordan-Syria border, November 15, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A vegetable vendor has set up shop along the main road that runs through the Za'tari refugee camp. Other makeshift shops sell shoes, clothing and prepared foods. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A woman washes clothes in the Za'tari refugee camp. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A woman hangs clothes to dry at the Za'tari refugee camp. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Syrian refugees make bread in a makeshift bakery between two tents in the Za'tari refugee camp. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Syrian refugees wait to fill prescriptions at a pharmacy at a Moroccan-run field hospital at the Za'tari refugee camp. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A doctor examines an ultrasound at a field hospital in the Za'tari refugee camp. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Wounded Syrian rebels recuperate in a private house in Amman, Jordan, November 14, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Yassar Oweir, who runs a private house for wounded Syrians in Amman, Jordan, holds up an x-ray of a wound he received during a protest last year in Dara, Syria. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A Syrian shows a picture of himself in a Syrian government hospital where he says he was chained to the bed because he was accused of being a terrorist. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A wounded Syrian rebel sits beside a boy in Amman, Jordan.  The boy was hurt in a missile strike on his home in Dara, Syria. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Wounded Syrians share a meal at a private house in Amman, Jordan. (Y. Weeks/VOA)


In his office in Amman, the Jordanian capital, Andrew Harper, who runs the United Nations refugee program for Syrians in Jordan, traces an arc over a map of southern Syria.  

“What we're seeing is that there's been an increase in violence in these border villages, this swathe to the north of Daraa,” he says. He describes a systematic movement of the population toward the Jordanian border.

Taking care of these refugees once they cross the border into Jordan becomes more difficult as the cold months approach.  

“One of the big issues that we have in the winter is to make the camp capable of withstanding all the rain and all the wind, all the cold,” Harper says. “It costs a lot of money.”

Settling in

The camp has been receiving help, including more sturdy shelters from Saudi Arabia. But as the structures go up, they reinforce the sense there'll be no quick resolution of the refugees' fate.

Along the main roads of the camp, food stalls, kiosks and vegetable stands - the beginnings of a small economy - are springing up.  

Karem Salimat, a refugee from Daraa, sells shoes.  “We go out just to get commodities, because here they bring us things that are all expensive.”

At a field hospital supplied by Morocco, the needs have shifted from emergency to long-term care. Staff members are busy stocking medicines they'll need for the coming months.

Pharmacist Abu el Kheir Ibrahim shows room after room filled with supplies, noting that the cold weather is a factor “that makes it even more serious for the sick.”

Thoughts of home

The hospital also provides mental health care.

Staff psychiatrist Dr. Ben Ali, who prefers not to use his full name, says there are several cases of post-traumatic stress disorder. But he adds that patients rarely complain about being uprooted. “They are always in the hope of returning to their homes and reconstructing their lives.”

But for many that hinges on what they hope will be the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  

Om Ahmed says that could be soon. “Once Bashar leaves, we will return,” she says.

But even if the war were to end tomorrow, thousands of refugees at the camp, including Om Ahmed, have no home to return to. Reconstructing their lives will take time.  

The people at the camp are a small fraction of the some 200,000 Syrians finding refuge in Jordan. Many are staying with friends or family in Amman.

Recovering fighters

At a private house in the Jordanian capital, a group of Syrian men enjoys a break from the conflict, eating and resting. But these are not regular civilian refugees.  

Yassar Oweir, who runs the program here, introduces one of the men. “They shot him in his leg," he says, "and he can't move and he can't walk.”

Oweir points out the wounds of others. One man was shot in the shoulder, another in his leg, a third was blinded in one eye. Most of them were wounded while fighting Assad's forces.   

Oweir gives a tour of the house, which is funded by private donors from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, explaining that there are about 20 wounded Syrians living there.

While many refugees sign up for help from the United Nations, these men are outside the system.  

The UNHCR's Andrew Harper says it is important to keep the camps for civilians only.  

“If we are aware that people have got a military past or are not necessarily 100 percent civilian in nature," he says, "we review their cases and not necessarily give them refugee status or certification.”

More from UNHCR's Andrew Harper

Jordan Refugees UNHCR Interviewi
|| 0:00:00
X
Japhet Weeks
December 04, 2012 1:07 PM
VOA Elizabeth Arrott and video journalist Japhet Weeks report

The men at the Amman house are proud of their roles as fighters. Unlike many of their counterparts at the camps, they are not waiting for Assad to fall; they're trying to make it happen.

Loai Ismail, who defected from the Syrian Army to join the rebels, was wounded in a clash with his former comrades. Once his wounds heal, he plans to return to the fight, “I'll go back with the Free Army and resist the Assad army, the traitor, God willing.”

Lingering costs

No matter which side prevails, some Syrians believe there can be no victory because the damage has been too great.  

At the house for wounded fighters, a young boy named Ezzaty plays as best he can with Yassar Oweir's son. His feet are mangled. He remembers the attack on his home in Dara'a where he sustained his injuries and lost a parent. 

“My father,” he says, “became a martyr.”

Ezzaty is receiving treatment in Jordan for his physical wounds. But experts say that some of the psychological wounds might never heal.

Video journalist Japhet Weeks contributed to this report.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid