Syrians who fled war struggle across Mideast to survive


October 7, 2013

October 7, 2013

Special to USA Today

The number of Syrians who fled their homeland to escape war now number more than 2 million.

Syria Direct’s Kristen Gillespie contributed reporting from Jordan’s Zaatari camp, now home to more than 120,000 Syrians. Read the entire article here.

Whether by a harrowing boat trip across the Mediterranean, a mountain crossing over the Turkish border or a flight to Germany, more than 2 million Syrians have fled their war-torn country to take refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq as well as in the Gulf countries and in Europe.

Two million people have fled the war as of September, says the United Nations. Those who got away from the 30-month-old conflict share horror stories of snipers and aerial bombardment, of murdered loved ones and wounded friends. The problems they face in their new homes varies tremendously depending on the country.

Some say they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Others worry about violence against foreigners. Many face bureaucratic hurdles to visas and bank accounts, and a hostile political situation on the ground.

“These are ordinary families, families that had homes, that had washing machines, that had a pickup truck, and their own kitchen and bathroom, and now they’re facing, who knows how long, (an uncertain situation),” said Aoife McDonnell, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). “Everybody just wants to go home … and they can’t.”

JORDAN: With nothing to do, boredom reigns

By Kristen Gillespie

ZAATARI CAMP: Surrounded by endless rows of tents and identical tin caravans, people sit talking on cellphones or wander the camp with unwashed babies.

One child plays with a twisted piece of hanger he calls his toy; men hammer together pieces of tin to create small shops in the vast Zaatari refugee camp, almost 50 miles outside Jordan’s capital city, Amman.

It is here, in the world’s second-largest refugee camp and now Jordan’s fourth-largest city, where more than 120,000 Syrians wait for peace. In the unrelenting sun in the middle of Jordan’s desert, boredom reigns.

“All we do is sit at home all day and the girls go to the mosque nearby for lessons in the Quran,” says Dallal al-Absi, a housewife and mother of eight children, who also cares for the two children of her husband’s sister.

“I am afraid for my daughters. If a school was nearby, I would send them — but it is far, and I am worried about them going, it is not secure enough here.”

Al-Absi fled her home in a village called Saham al-Jolan after it was bombed by the Syrian army arriving at Zaatari in January. In charge of overseeing the water system in their village, her husband has remained in Syria, staying at his brother’s house and sleeping in a nearby shelter every night to avoid the shells and mortars that continue to rain down.

“My husband’s brother’s kids were all killed and our house was destroyed so we left with my children to the shelter and stayed there for about four or five days,” she said.

“I came to Jordan in spite of myself. I did not want to come but my husband made me for the sake of our children, so that they can stay safe — and I had nowhere to go but Zaatari.”

While some people have managed to find themselves work within the camp, which opened in July 2012, others have nothing to do with their days but sit and wait until they can return to their homes in Syria.

“Our country is better than here,” said Al-Absi’s daughter, 13-year-old Lama, who says she hates life in the camp. “There we go to school, we go to other places, we go out and play with our friends. But here we do not have friends … we have no one but a few relatives.”

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