I Will Raise My Children in This Tent

I Will Raise My Children in This Tent

Publication info

Johanna Mitscherlich

A 45-minute drive from Amman, the capital of Jordan, a bumpy road leads to a sea of tents. Children are playing next to big barrels filled with rainwater, rusty cages with chickens and goats, and burning piles of rubbish. Sahab, aged 24, sits on a thin brown mattress in one of the tents. One hand caresses her one-year-old son Khalil’s* hair; the other rests on her belly. In three months Sahab is due to give birth to her second son. ‘I will raise my children in this tent,’ she says,  and sounds as if she had to convince herself of this fact. She quietly adds, ‘This should not be the kind of future I have to offer to my unborn son.’

Her husband Ali takes out his mobile and shows me pictures of a small house surrounded by olive trees and grazing sheep. Then he shows me another picture of the very same house. Grime on the walls that are still standing, rubble and stone, a ruin, filled with the remains of furniture, clothes, and memories of a life that a bomb destroyed in a matter of seconds. Sahab, Ali and their little son left their home in Hamah and fled to Jordan. Sahab points through the entry of the tent to a multistorey dwelling, about 100 metres away. ‘This is where we first lived. But $200 for rent and another $65 for water and electricity were too expensive. Our savings did not last very long.’

life in Refuge - Syria Crisis

Ali decided to build a new place for his family to live, a place where they would not need to pay rent. The 26-year old asked friends for a loan, bought tarps and collected wooden boards, Styrofoam, and cardboard on a garbage dump close by. A month later, their tent was ready. Back then, it was the fifth one on the sandy site. Today, a few months later, there are around 100 tents. Ali’s seven siblings and their mother also live with them in the tent, which is about 15 square metres in size.

Ali and his younger brother work packing boxes and hauling them on to big lorries that take the goods to supermarkets. They earn around $7 a day, which Sahab spends on medication and food. Her son is always sick. ‘The dust makes him cough and the airplanes above make him anxious. I am afraid for his tiny body, but also afraid for his soul. He does not play like children are supposed to play. He does not eat like children should eat. His future is not the kind of future children should have ahead of them.’

Sahab herself feels sick most of the time; her pregnancy weakens her. A few weeks ago, Ali registered himself and his family in one of the refugee centres that CARE runs in Jordan in order to keep warm in the coming winter. ‘We do not have any blankets, heaters or warm clothes to protect us from the cold.’ In Jordan, temperatures can be as low as zero degrees during the winter. Sahab’s hopes are also growing cold – the hopes of a mother who wants her children to grow up safe, sound, and healthy and who wants to raise her children in a place that she calls home.