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Waiting in Zaatari: ‘This is what we want – we want to go home’

October 2, 2013 Dallal al-Absi is a housewife and mother […]

2 October 2013

October 2, 2013

Dallal al-Absi is a housewife and mother of eight. She is also raising the two children of her husband’s sister, who died last year in a bombing on the village.

Like nearly 90% of Zaatari residents, the al-Absi family is from Daraa province, specifically, a village called Saham al-Jolan. They fled to Jordan after their house was bombed by the Assad regime’s army.

The family arrived in Zaatari in January of this year. Dallal al-Absi’s husband, who is in charge of overseeing the water system in their village, remains in Syria despite the fact that Dallal says their village is randomly hit by mortars. Her husband stays at his brother’s house because the family home was destroyed in a shelling attack, but sleeps in a nearby shelter every night to avoid shells hitting the residence.

Today, the al-Absi family, nearly a dozen of them, live in two 240-square-foot tin containers close to the ring road that encircles Zaatari. Dallal showed Kristen Gillespie around during a recent visit as she prepared mahshi.

Dallal al-Abasi Syrian Refugee

Dallal Al-Absi, a mother of eight, lives with her children in Zaatari refugee camp.(Photo: Kristen Gillespie)

Q: Tell us why you left your village.

“There was no fighting at that time – we were sleeping in our house and woke up to missiles landing on our house, which destroyed the floors on top of us.

My husband’s brother’s kids were all killed and our house was destroyed – we left with my children to the shelter.

Many houses were destroyed.

I escaped with my children to the shelter – we stayed there for nearly 5 days.

I wanted to run away with my children and keep them safe. 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. He saw his brothers’ children getting killed, and he told me to run away with my children.

I had nowhere to go but Zaatari.

It was bad when we came – we were really upset but now we getting used to the situation. I was so afraid at home. Our life was a horror. We were afraid and we could not live like that. My in-laws, my brothers and my husband are still there.

Our life here is hard – really hard. We have so little. I need to work to support my daughters, I have to feed six girls.

I also have to have a doctor treat my son. His leg is injured. He was shot.

[Mahmoud – Dallal’s son, age 21]

I was in the army and I defected. I joined the FSA in October of last year.


Zaatari camp, Jordan (Abdulrahman al-Masri/Syria Direct)

Q: Why did you join?

I saw a lot of injustice and people being killed for no reason. My conscience told me that I could not stay still and do nothing. My relatives, my friends many people were affected by this war. We care about all the people – all Muslims are brothers. It is not right for someone to see his brother being killed and stands watching. 

Q: Tell us more about what you saw that made you want to join the rebels.

I saw injustice, first of all. Someone would be sitting at home and the [regime forces] would enter a house and kill, steal and loot – they kill the people in the house with no reason and without the people knowing why.

This is something that pushes you to fight them.

All my friends joined the Free Syrian Army for the same reason – to defend their honor. People have to defend their honor, their dignity and family.

[Daughter – Lama, age 13]

We used to go to school but it is too far from here in the camp.

We cannot go there.


I am afraid for my daughters and the school is far. All we do is sit at home all day and the girls go to the mosque nearby for lessons in the Quran.

[Daughter – Lama, age 13]

When we came to Zaatari, our father to took us to the school then we stopped going then we went to “semi” school  and then we stopped – we sit at home all day.

Q: How is life in the camp?

It is not good. Our country is better than here

There we go to school, we go to other places, we go out and play with our friends.  Here we do not have friends.

It is better there, we have our relatives there – here we have no one but a few relatives.


I am afraid for my daughters. If a school were nearby, I am ready to send them – but it is far and I am worried about them going. It is not secure enough here.

I hear that bastard [Bashar al-Assad] is leaving. God will destroy the regime and we will go back home.

We need help from other countries. We need help, we want a[n American air] strike as soon as possible. We want to go home – we are tired here in Zaatari.

This is what we want – we want to go home.

I want to go home – even if the war continues – I can’t take it here any more.


There are no killings here, but there is no security, either. If I want to leave the camp to go to hospital I can’t as my identification was taken from me [by Jordanian forces upon entry into Jordan.]

We don’t know what to do.

I support the [American air] stike because the regime is using banned weapons and look what they did in East Ghouta.

We are completely for the American strike. Not to destroy our country but we a break – we are tired.

We want Syria to be liberated and then when we go back, then we think about the future.

This is the important thing – Syria is our future

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