An update from Katelyn Gough in Jordan researching the Syrian refugee crisis within the context of Jordanian security and international affairs.
“The rebellions control the area my family lives. It’s very difficult to live there.
Protected? No. They can shell it. Explosive bottles, heavy shelling. Almost every day.
Sometimes I wish I had stayed. And sometimes, no.”
I recently spent my first two days in the Zaatari refugee camp near al Mafraq, a short 45-minute drive from downtown Amman. Zaatari is home now to 81,000 Syrians, many from the Daraa area that extends down to just above the Jordanian border north of the camp. As this number has fluctuated since Syrians began fleeing at the start of the revolution in 2011, it hit its high of more than 400,000 refugees in the camp and has since settled out at the current figure. These numbers do not include the second camp of Azraq to the east, nor the large population of Syrians who have attempted to integrate into Jordanian towns, including the capital city of Amman.
In a country whose history is largely dominated by significant refugee influxes, one said to me that the Syrian migration is “history repeating itself.”
I spoke with many refugees over my two days there—from young children to elderly grandparents—and the realities they faced in Syria and the realities they face in the camp are unforgettable. More importantly, their resilience was what I found most astounding.
I heard stories of murdered family members, stories of surviving bullet wounds from a sniper attack, stories of leaving university in Syria to save one’s own life and flee.
These stories were accompanied by the absolute exuberance of the children living in the camp. They would see me walking between the tents with my camera and suddenly run up in front of me, unannounced, and immediately begin posing. I was to take their photo so they could see it on the camera in the clear colors—it was a universal game for all of them, more so than I have ever found in previous journalism projects involving younger ones.
As I spent time in the camp interviewing and meeting with people—especially the older youth, whose bridge from youth to adulthood is infinitely complicated by the fact of displacement—I experienced hospitality unlike ever before. Many whom I spoke with and questioned thanked me for the interviews, giving me freshly baked bread, desert treats from their shop, and welcoming me into their tents and aluminum caravans for tea and juice. My guide to the camp even hosted myself and my translator for lunch with his family not one day, but two—a family network with all ready too little to eat was preparing for us their favorite meals typically reserved for the best of celebrations, featuring chicken and beef and requiring several hours’ preparation.
It is remedying the stories of loss, deprivation and attack with the undying generosity that they could not afford by gave anyway that takes a true look into the complicated and interwoven workings of migration and displacement reality in a culture so selfless and sacrificing.Share on Facebook