An Eye for Crying: Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Girls

An Eye for Crying: Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Girls

Publication info

Laura Sheahen

Hanan is showing us a picture she drew on a torn piece of paper. In some ways it’s what you’d expect from an 8 year old. The people have smiling faces and amorphous bodies. The houses have pointed rooftops and windows.

But look more closely and there are painful details. Hanan has drawn a small tank in the middle of the picture. And toward the top of the page are strange circular objects that seem to be leaking, one next to a house, the other onto one of the smiling faces. 

Hanan points to the circle dripping on a house, and says, “This is an eye crying.”

Hanan is a refugee from Syria’s brutal civil war. A bomb killed her father while he was selling vegetables on the street. Her younger brother was wounded by falling rubble when a blast hit their apartment. Hanan’s mother got her five children out of Syria. They now live in a slum area of Amman, the capital of Jordan.

Hanan is quick. She missed a year of school as her mother moved the family from place to place to Syria, hoping to find safety. But Hanan remembers numbers, can do simple math and can write her brother’s name in Arabic on the same paper as the drawing. She’s alert and curious and interested in learning more about the world beyond her family’s bare apartment.

It’s time for Hanan to be back in school. One thing in her favor is that her mother Rawda wants her to go. With no source of income and unable to work legally in host countries, many Syrian parents have had to send their kids out on the streets to sell gum, tissues or other small items.

Also in Hanan’s favor is the fact that her mother isn’t asking Hanan to watch her four younger brothers – including Izeddin, a 7 year old who has not been able to walk since the bomb blast worsened his existing weakness. When refugee parents go to work and young girls become permanent babysitters, their time at school may be over before it’s begun.

Though school is free, even paying for paper or pens is prohibitive for Syrian refugee families struggling to get by. Nevertheless, Rawda goes to the local public school to register Izeddin and Hanan for classes.

Over past decades, Jordan has generously welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from many countries, including Iraq. Jordan has already created second shifts in some schools since Syria’s civil war forced 1 million children to leave their country. But classrooms and teachers are finite. At first, Rawda is told there was no place for her children.

CARE has helped Rawda with a cash grant to help her pay for food and rent. CARE’s case workers refer refugees like Rawda to other organizations who help with school issues. And CARE is planning to create family centers where kids like Hanan and her younger brothers can play safely with other children and read books.

But for days, it’s uncertain whether Hanan will make it to school – or whether she’ll become one of thousands of smart, eager girls worldwide who are blocked from school because of tradition, war or poverty.

Exhausted and bereaved, Rawda keeps pushing the school to accept her children. Finally, following a CARE visit that brings Hanan's situation to the attention of others, there is some good news: Hanan is successfully enrolled in school.

Hanan’s picture doesn’t just include tanks and weeping eyes. “This is me,” she says, pointing to the figure of a girl.

With an education, Hanan has a chance to shape what that girl becomes.

Keep learning:

Young Voices from Syria video



Young Voices from Syria