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With Syria, 3 Years In

More than three years into Syria’s war, over 2 million Syrians have fled their country. Nearly 600,000 of them are seeking refuge in Jordan. As the world deliberates about Syria’s humanitarian crisis, what are Syrians in Jordan thinking and feeling?

Written by ARDD-Legal Aid Published on Read time Approx. 6 minutes
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ARDD-Legal Aid, a nongovernmental organization based in Amman, is training citizen journalists in a program that builds Syrians’ capacity to speak for and support each other. The organization sent five journalists out in Mafraq, Irbid, Zarqa and Amman to ask members of their community to share their hopes and reflections. Below are the stories they captured.

Name: Mohammad Age: 45 Hometown: Der’aa, Syria Currently living: Mafraq, Jordan Time in Jordan: One year, four months

Mohammad feels the bitterness of Syria’s last three years. Jordan is not too different culturally, he said, which is why his family moved to Mafraq when Syria became too dangerous. But the hardest thing in Jordan is that he cannot work. “If I go back to Syria in five years, I’ll have lost my drive,” said the 45-year-old lawyer. “If we return to Syria any time soon, we will be going to a destroyed country.”

But Mohammad also thinks about rebuilding his country, especially in terms of the law. “Interacting with Jordanian law has given me ideas about what we could apply in Syria,” Mohammad said. “We lawyers understand both the law and Syria’s customs. We will lead future legal reform in Syria.”

Mohammad calls for all Syrians to stand side by side. This is the only way to end the conflict and rebuild Syria, he said. In the meantime, he feels most urgently for Syrian children’s educational and emotional needs. “We must not lose this generation,” Mohammad said.

Citizen Journalists: Amani (21, from Damascus) and Fatimah (22, from Damascus)

Name: Awad Age: 45 Hometown: Der’aa, Syria Currently living: Amman, Jordan Time in Jordan: One year, five months

“No one who has lived in Damascus and breathed her air can give up on Syria,” Awad said. The former Syrian lawyer feels pain and bitterness, but not despair. Civil society has become his hope for rebuilding Syria. “We need to call for human rights, especially for women,” Awad said. “We must form special bodies to fight for Syrian women and reclaim their rights and freedom. They have suffered much in this crisis.”

In the meantime, Awad is fighting for human rights and raising awareness about Jordanian law for Syrian refugees in Jordan. His message is that of the Syrian people, he said: love, brotherhood, peace and perseverance. “I call on the younger generation not to give up on education,” Awad said. “They have to rebuild Syria in the future. They cannot give up.”

Citizen Journalist: Amira Khalifeh (19, from Homs)

Name: Khadijeh Age: 43 Hometown: Rif Dimashq, Syria Currently living: Amman, Jordan Time in Jordan: One year, two months

Khadijeh believes that the most important thing she can do for Syria’s future is to learn and provide psychosocial support. She originally came to Jordan with her niece, seeking medical treatment after a bad accident in Syria, but then was left alone here. All the Syrians she meets in Amman want to return to Syria as soon as possible, Khadijeh said. Psychosocial training from ARDD-Legal Aid gave Khadijeh a way of giving her community and herself hope in the meantime.

“We have to bring hope back to those who have lost it, especially the children who suffer so much in this crisis,” Khadijeh said. “There’s a huge need for psychosocial support centers. We have to build Syria on a foundation of more than buildings and bricks.” Her message is for Syrians to unite, put personal concerns aside, and work for their country’s and people’s good.

Citizen Journalist: Amira (19, from Homs)

Name: Mohammad Age: 39 Hometown: Der’aa, Syria Currently living: Amman, Jordan Time in Jordan: 10 months

“Refugee” is a humiliating term, said Mohammad, who came to Jordan with his wife and four daughters. The youngest is three years old and the oldest is 11. People can’t live as a normal part of their host society, Mohammad said, which is not just hard, but psychologically painful. He wishes for peace in Syria but worries that the country’s intellectuals and young generation have all left in search of safety.

“We won’t be able to rebuild Syria again without young leaders,” Mohammad said. “So we continue asking for safety.” He hopes for increased relief efforts in Syria and for peace.

Citizen Journalist: Amira (19, from Homs)

Name: Muhi Age: 24 Hometown: Damascus Currently living: Zarqa, Jordan **Time in Jordan: one year

“It’s difficult to build a life in Jordan,” said Muhi el-Deen, who came to Jordan with his parents, brother and sister because they have family here. “No matter how hard I try, I will always feel like a stranger.” Muhi earned some money to support his family through a job at first, but problems at the workplace made him leave his job. Now he’s looking for another one, but hopes the fighting in Syria will stop so he can return. “I feel like, what are they saying? Like a fish out of water.”

Muhi loves Syria as his country, but also as the place where he left the girl of his dreams behind. Three years ago, Muhi fell in love. “When I arrived in Jordan, I felt like the fire in my heart was taken away,” he said. “But we stayed in touch. Her family might come to Jordan soon. All I want now is to see her in front of my eyes.”

Citizen Journalist: Aisha (34, from Hamat)

Name: Abu Ahmad Age: 49 Hometown: Der’aa, Syria Now living: Zarqa, Jordan Time in Jordan: One year, three months

Abu Ahmad practiced law in Syria for 18 years before he came to Jordan with his wife and six children. They spent their first month in Zaatari camp, but then moved to Zarqa. “All we do here is eat, drink, sleep and watch television,” Abu Ahmad said. “We have nothing else to do. We feel pain. We don’t feel human.”

Nevertheless, Abu Ahmad still hopes that the crisis will end. Destruction may hit his country, Abu Ahmad said, but the Syrian people are builders. They will raise their country back to being a place for all, he hopes, in a state better than the one it was in before. Abu Ahmad calls on the world not to abandon the Syrian people and to stand by them until the crisis ends.

Citizen Journalist: Aisha (34, from Hamat)

Name: Siham Age: 51 Hometown: Der’aa, Syria Now living: Irbid, Jordan Time in Jordan: One year, seven months

Siham describes her love for Syria since coming to Jordan as “madness.” A lawyer with 19 years of experience, Siham left Syria because she’d been threatened for working with other lawyers on a humanitarian statement condemning the ongoing violence. Jordan’s hosting of Syrians is appreciated, Siham said, but war traders are using the war economy to exploit people, especially the weak.

Siham is determined to return to Syria even if she has to live in a tent. “Being outside of my country doesn’t mean that I’m not serving it,” said Siham, who learned about legal aid through her time in Jordan and wants to lead humanitarian legal initiatives back home. “My time here has given me a seed of experience. That seed will grow and flourish.”

Citizen Journalist: Rasha (24, from Der’aa)

Name: Ali Age: 46 Hometown: Der’aa, Syria Now living: Irbid, Jordan Time in Jordan: Two years

Ali Maf’alani compares Syria to Switzerland, where he once worked, wishing that his people could have the same kind of peace and freedom. “I thought the crisis would end quickly,” said Ali, who moved to Irbid expecting to stay only a short while. “But the opposite happened.”

“Everything is chaos in Syria,” said Ali, who fears for the future but still hopes that the world will stand with Syria. He wants to return and set up courts to organize the country’s legal matters. “Man can still achieve,” he said, “As long as he doesn’t give up.”

Citizen Journalist: Rasha (24, from Der’aa)

Name: Ahmad Age: 40 Hometown: Damascus, Syria Now living: Irbid, Jordan Time in Jordan: One year, two months

Ahmad was arrested at the start of the conflict in Syria because he was providing legal defense for detained protesters. His children – five-year-old Hadi, four-year-old Lana and three-year-old Farah – saw their father taken away. They didn’t speak for the next three days, Ahmad’s wife said.

After a month and a half of arrest, Ahmad came with his family to Irbid. Jordan is safer, Ali said, but financially difficult. “Before the conflict in Syria, my goal was to make a name for myself as a lawyer,” Ali said. “Now my goal is to stand for the oppressed.” Ali wants to work in international legal organizations and then to help those who need defense. “When I return, I hope to rebuild a new Syria.”

Citizen Journalist: Rasha (24, from Der’aa)

This project was facilitated by ARDD-Legal Aid as part of their Voice project. Pieces were edited by Rana Nassar and Alice Su. This post originally appeared on 7iber.org

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