Syria Refugee Crisis: Azraq, a Place Where People Smile at Each Other
For three Syrian women who escaped the war, the main thing about Azraq refugee camp is that people are not trying to kill each other. “I cannot see more violence” says Safa (20).
Inside one of thousands of identical white metal huts in the desert, three Syrian women sit on their respective mattresses, handed to them by the UN refugee agency. They have terrible stories to tell.
Safa (20), Mona (44) and Dlal (65) met just days ago as they entered Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. All being single women, they were assigned to share a shelter. Even though living conditions are sparse, they are happy to be in the camp.
Safa came from Daraa. She left after her house was bombed. She was at home when it happened. Rubble fell on her and she got badly burned. She shows some of the burn marks on her hands.
“It is a lot better here than in Daraa. A lot of people have died in Daraa. Life was impossible” she says.
“I cannot see more violence. I am frightened. I came here because I need peace and a hospital. We are safe here. People smile to each other; they do not kill each other. There is food, water, no bombs, no gas – no snakes.”
There is a reason why she mentions snakes. She spent 26 days walking through the desert being afraid of them.
“On my way to Jordan in a taxi, we were stopped by armed men. ‘Why do you want to leave Syria?’ they asked angrily. They shot and killed the driver and put me in prison. Under my clothes you can see what they did to me. I asked ‘Why do you do this to me? I am just a young woman.’ After two days they drove me into the desert and left me there alone in the sun, with the snakes. I walked fast in my sandals for 26 days without any food and very little water. I would say to myself: ‘God, why do I live? Take me, take me.”
Safa’s two brothers stayed behind in Daraa, but they arrived in Jordan before her and they are now in Amman. She hopes to join them soon.
All three women have health problems. As the primary point of contact for refugees in the communities, CARE is responsible for ensuring that they are able to access necessary services. A CARE outreach worker will assist them with this.
Dlal has been blind for two months. She wants to see a doctor to find out why. After seeking refuge at a mosque in Homs, she was able to join a group of people going to Jordan. It took them one month to cross the border.
Mona spent twenty days walking through desert. It clearly took a toll on her, as she was not in the best of health to begin with. She shows a big bulge on her upper right arm that she does not know what is. She wants to visit a hospital to find out. She also suffers from diabetes. Her daughter and sister are in the Za’atari refugee camp and she hopes to join them there.
For now, the three women are happy to have each other.
“We are already like sisters. We do everything together. Life was very difficult in Syria. We have learned that we need each other. We help each other and we share everything. Safa and I help Dlal go to the bathroom” explains Mona.
After a brief silence she starts to cry. The CARE outreach worker embraces her. With tears running down her face, Mona explains that she is touched by the solidarity and generosity she has encountered in the camp. She also seems to be struggling with conflicting feelings about her home country. “I hate Syria. I never want to go back. It’s over” she says.
Safa too doubts she will ever go back to Syria. Only Dlal says she wants to go home as soon as possible.
By Anders Nordstoga/CARE