Syrian Refugee Crisis: When life takes a break


By Johanna Mitscherlich

Hadi stands in front of twenty refugees in CARE’s centre in Zarqa, the industrial centre of Jordan, about half an hour drive from the capital Amman. He is leading one of two daily information sessions. He is telling the refugees about their rights, informs them about what kind of support they can receive from CARE and other organisations. He responds with warm words to cold desperation and lack of prospects. Every day he listens to dozens of stories of flight. Stories of children who had to witness how their fathers died and who are now losing their hair out of sadness. Stories of mothers, whose children were hit by bullets and cannot walk by themselves anymore. Stories of fathers, who want to end their lives because they lost everything and cannot take care of their families anymore. On some days, Hadi says, his head does not stop spinning. It is like a hurricane which drags along all of the details of the stories and does not let it exit its fly brakes. Wild and out of control it causes trouble behind his forehead.

“I know their pain. I know, where it sits in their bodies. I know how it feels.“ Hadi fled himself from Syria to Jodan a couple of months ago. He is one of more than 20 volunteers in CARE’s refugee centres. “I am like them,” he says. Hadi’s pain sits not only in his leg, which was shot when he was carrying wounded to the hospital. His pain also has a name. Hala (name changed). He shows me the picture of a beautiful young woman on his mobile. She has long, strong hair and hazelnut-brown eyes. Her smile was truly meant for the photographer. Hala was Hadi’s big love. But the bullet that hit her, did not care that he loved her, that he wanted to marry her, have a family with her and lead a happy life.

When Hadi speaks, he is shaking his head slightly, as if he wanted to free himself from the memories. “I miss talking to her, to laugh with her and be close to her. I am just half without her.” I ask Hadi how he manages to deal with all this pain, how he transfers his pain into strength to help his people every day. “I cannot watch my people suffer. I have to contribute whatever I can so they can feel hope again. Without hope one cannot live.” The power of this 23 year old is supernatural, he is drawing it from the love for his fellow human beings. It even shows through the sadness which surrounds him. You can see it. It is grey, about a wide as the palm of a hand and covers him like a coat out of steel.

For himself, Hadi says, he does not have a lot of hope anymore. In Syria he had his whole life ahead of him. Life had great plans for him. He had just finished his law studies, wanted to start his first job. “My life as it was is taking a break,” Hadi says. “It makes me crazy that I cannot use my head the way I used to.” In Jordan, Hadi cannot work legally, he cannot be a lawyer here.

Being a refugee does not only imply that one does not have enough money for medication or rent. Being a refugee also means that students cannot study anymore, lawyers are not citing paragraphs anymore, vendors are not handing bread over the counter and teachers are not writing on a blackboard with chalk anymore. Hadi was able to take care of himself, was respected and did what he was good at and what he had decided for. Now he is depended on the help of others. But what the bombs and bullets could not take away from him – his knowledge, his character and his warmth – he gives to his fellow refugees in CARE’s centres every day. “I love people and I want them to know that someone cares about them, wants to know how they feel and what they think. Sometimes even a smile can make a difference.”

Hadi asks me whether I think the world has forgotten about Syria. I respond that I don’t think so. I do think that people have become used to the conflict and that the growing thunder of the tanks drown the silent crying of the people. “The world cannot forget about Syria. They are just not allowed to do so,” Hadi repeats like a mantra. The world cannot forget Syria, because more than 9,3 million people are desperately in need of support, more than 2,2 million people have fled, more than 6,5 million are internally displaced within Syria and more than half of the Syrian people are living below the poverty line. But the world can also not forget about Syria because of young men like Hadi, who despite their own losses, painful memories, get up every morning so that other refugees can feel better. The world has to help Hadi help.

Learn more about the crisis in Syria >