Syria’s European widows

Syria’s European widows

Publication info

Lucy Beck, CARE Jordan

Many refugees have dubbed the journey to Europe as the ‘Death Road’ due to its perilous nature and high mortality rates, especially at sea. Despite this, thousands continue to make the trip with over 3,500 people this year already having lost their lives at sea. These are the stories of women whose husbands braved the route to try and find a better life for themselves and their families.

33 year old Hanan's husband left for Germany in to seek a better future for his family. She is left in Jordan to look after her family of seven which includes her mother in law and sister in law and five children.



My husband left Jordan on the 16th June and arrived in Germany in July. He had been working in Jordan without permission and got caught twice and we were worried we would get sent back to Syria. The last time he was caught I spent the whole day crying to the police and begging them not to send us back. We have to pay the rent on our apartment which is 200 JOD (around $US 280) per month and if he can’t work then we can’t pay. If we don’t pay then we have to leave.

My husband decided to travel to Europe because he had heard there are good conditions for life there and schools for the children and because of the difficult situation for us living here in Jordan. It’s all about our children; that’s the main reason. He found a group of Syrians who were going and decided to join them. He went from Jordan to Turkey to Greece and then up through Europe. He took loans from friends (a total of $2,000) to pay his passage from Turkey.

The last time I spoke to him was five days ago and he told me he’s near Frankfurt in a camp. He says the country is good. The journey was very hard though and he went with only the clothes on his back. He knew it would be difficult but he did it for our five children. We spent a lot of time without contact – sometimes I went four days without hearing from him. He told me he used all his food and water up early on and was eating from the trees and forests and drinking from rivers along the way. The worst part though was the boat which took 10 hours. At the end of journey the water was coming up over the sides of the boat and they nearly capsized.

It’s so hard with him gone. Now I have to take care of the whole family alone. I have many new responsibilities now liking taking the children to and from school and caring for my elderly mother in law. I have to take out loans from friends and neighbours to pay the rent. I am waiting from my husband to find work so he can start sending us money. We were expecting it would take one year before he would be able to start providing for his family and we could join him in Germany, but already things are taking longer than we thought so I will have to keep borrowing and maybe look for work myself.

I miss him so much, too much, and so do the children. This is the first time we have been separated for this long in 11 years of marriage. Before this the longest was one month when he went on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. I miss everything about him, but mainly the hardest thing is how much the children miss him. They are always asking when they will see him and join him and I don’t know what to tell them.

I know it won’t be easy in Germany but it is still better than here. Me and my husband were teachers back in Syria so we can always learn the language and it will be worth it for the children. If my husband doesn’t get us over to him in a year I will try to take out a big loan and join him there myself. I am scared to death by the journey but I know that after a while no one will give me any more loans and I won’t be able to survive.”

To help lift some of the financial burden she is facing, Hanan received CARE’s emergency cash assistance of US$ 183 and is now being considered for CARE’s winterisation assistance of approximately US$ 560.

34 year old Maysa’a’s husband left for Germany while her parents are far away in Egypt. She is too scared to go out alone so her only regular human contact is with her neighbour.

My husband Maray left for Germany in August. He used to work illegally in Amman, Jordan but he got caught three times and the choice he was given by the police was to go to the camp or back to Syria. We heard from our neighbours that people were going by themselves to Europe and we preferred this option to the others which we already knew were very bad. We want an education for our children. They used to be the first in their class back in Syria but with the situation here and the schools they no longer are. We heard that life and opportunities in Germany are better.

Right now he is in a camp in Germany and I talk to him every day on WhatsApp and Viber. He travelled for a month to get to Germany. He told me how hard the journey was. He already had a slipped disc before he left and now he has problems with his legs from the cold and from having to walk so far.

I miss my husband so much. I am alone here now without any family, without my mother, father or siblings. Life is so much harder here without him. It’s really hard to pay the rent on our apartment now, and I have to look after the children all by myself. I have to take out debts just in order to pay for things. The other day I was so upset, and when I am upset my children get upset too. When I am upset I cry a lot and I feel so lonely. The only contact I have with people is with my neighbour as I don’t feel safe going outside.  

I have been in Jordan for two years now and my youngest daughter Gazal, who is just over one year old, was born here. She talks with her father on the phone too, but when she hears his voice she cries and then he cries too. Maray misses the children the most of all. I can tell from his voice that he wants to cry and is about to cry.

We are hoping that within a year we will be able to go join him officially in Germany but I am not sure how I will cope alone until then. I have already sold the heaters in the house and taken out debts because already I can’t provide for my family. My husband left in the summer when it was still warm and we didn’t need the heater but now it’s getting cold and I am worried, especially for Gazal. Sometimes I wake worrying about my husband. Last night I didn’t sleep until 3am worrying about him.

All I want is to be with my husband again – I feel safe with him. And I want to continue the education for my children; this is my first goal. Education is the most important thing for the future.

47 year old Badriya is left in Jordan with her 7 children after her husband went to Europe this summer. Badriya has received an emergency cash assistance of US$ 183 from CARE, in addition to participating in CARE’s community center’s psychosocial activities in Zarqa city, Jordan, and being referred by CARE to other organizations that provide medical and psychological assistance. Badriya has also been included in CARE’s vocational training sessions.


“My husband left from Europe in August… on the 27th… I forget the date because I am experiencing so much pressure and stress since he’s gone. Everything is put on my head now that he is gone. If he had found work here in Jordan he would have stayed but there is no work and life is hard here. He worked for 3 months as a paid volunteer with CARE and volunteered with other aid agencies and then he couldn’t find any other work. He borrowed money from everyone he knows to raise enough for the passage but he still ran out of money is Serbia and I had to borrow another 500 JOD ($500 US) from a friend to send to him.

The last time I spoke to him was two weeks ago. He’s feeling very stressed and not doing well there. He thought he would be able to work straight away but he is not doing anything – just eating and sleeping and he is far from his family. He has too much time on his hands, he is someone who likes to always be doing things and now all he does is think. He had a stroke in the camp when he first arrived because of all the thinking and stress and was taken to hospital. He thought he would get to Germany and work and send money but this is not the reality. He is a very proud man and this is very hard on him. His goal was to work and make life better for his family in Jordan. We are facing so many problems here and so many bills. We face stress here and he faces stress there.

My 15 year old son Yazan is now working 12 hours a day for 5 JOD ($5 US) in a bakery just to try and help pay the rent. I am cooking from home for neighbours sometimes as well – whatever work we can do, we do it. Our rent is 120 JOD ($120 US) a month and last month the electricity was cut because we couldn’t pay the rent and our landlord had to lend us 50 JOD ($50 US) to turn it back on. My 12 year old son is asking to quit school so he can help work, but I don’t want any more of my children to leave school and miss out on an education. It is better for them to study and stay in school. I haven’t paid the rent for the last 3 months (and counting). I don’t even have 5 JOD ($5 US) in this whole house – imagine!

I wish my husband had stayed here and not gone to Germany. I regret our decision. If we can’t join him over there soon I feel like I will have to go back to Syria – I don’t want to go back, but we may be forced to. Everyone who I speak to who is still there tells me not to come back though – they tell me if you come back, you won’t eat – there is no bread in the whole country.

45 year old Basema lives in Azraq Camp with her two sons. The other two sons and her husband are in Germany and Turkey.


I am very worried about my husband. He went to Europe by sea and it is very dangerous. When he arrived and talked about the journey he said it was very dangerous and there was lots of wind at sea which made water enter the boat. The boat nearly capsized and the captain asked them to throw all their belongings in the sea to stop it capsizing. He was left with only his passport and money. Despite this I still wish we had had the money to go with him at the time as even this is easier than the journey from Syria.

While he was travelling I had no contact with him and even now it depends on how much internet I have on the phone and if I can I can borrow the internet on a neighbours phone. I have only spoken to him once since he arrived in Germany and that was for only 30 minutes, four days ago. I don’t sleep at night because I am worried and thinking about my husband. Before when my children were at school I would sit with him but now I’m alone. I miss the time we spent together here before he left – we used to go for walks in the camp and did everything together. Everything is difficult without my husband here and there is so much more responsibility on me.

We are hoping to be able to join him soon in Germany. The most important thing for me is that my husband and sons like Germany and that my sons finish their education. We lost everything in Syria except our family and all I want is to keep my sons alive and for them to finish their education. Even if I am living in a tent in Germany as long as I am with my husband I will be happy. My oldest son went to Germany before him and he tells me some things about it. He said the weather there is very different for example, but that there are parks to visit if I get bored. I said all I want is to be in one place and see you at the end of the day.

37 year old Badriya lives with her seven children in Zarqa, central Jordan. Her husband recently left for Germany.