Flames Lick the Heels of Syria's Refugees



by Abeer Ali, and Veronica Costarelli

Wherever they run, the flames of Syria's civil war are licking at the heels of its refugees. 

“We have fled the flames of war to (come to) this boiling desert,” said a 35-year-old Syrian woman living in a refugee camp in Jordan. Her frustration mounting along other equally disgruntled women, she added: “We just want a decent life.”

“That is all we are asking for, a decent life,” she said, echoing the despair of those around her, some of whom are losing hope after spending over a month in the desert camp. 

Since the end of July 2012 over 300,000 Syrians have been helped to flee the fighting inside their country, escorted from border areas to organized camps.

As part of the transportation services, IOM’s Emergency Response team provides pre-registration, orientation and reception services to newly arriving refugees welcomed with tea, water and milk for infants after they walked long miles to reach the Jordanian Border.

Political issues seemed irrelevant to these women and they did not want to talk about them after they lost their homes in the destruction, resulting from non-stop battles in their small village near Daraa. 

"Here, you die every day and you get humiliated and you never get clean,” a woman said while holding back tears.

But she and other women in the camp were determined to get this message through. They want the world to focus on the nightmare they are living through and support a solution to the crisis in Syria to end their suffering.

"It is desert all around. In the day, it is very hot and at night, it is very cold. It is boiling hot during the day," she said, describing the camp area, begging assistance and help to go back home as other women shared her plea and tried to highlight the rough conditions they are living in, in the rough and dusty terrain of Za’atri camp.

Dust storms, accompanying high temperatures, were making it difficult to breathe that day at the camp, located across the borders between Jordan and Syria and accommodating more than 100,000 Syrians, of whom many believe that death is better than their current fate.

Still in a state of shock, a mother and housewife recalls her son’s experience back in Syria.

Back in the village, the boy had begun to wander from place to place, with nowhere to stay, as he later told his mother: “We had one cousin left there and she was not married, so she offered him a place to sleep. He wasn’t fighting. He just helped the free army, sending them food and water,” she elaborated.

Early one morning, while walking with two friends, a relative as well as a close friend from Taffas, a nearby village, he felt the earth shake. The village was being shelled again. The boys tried to hide behind a rock. A minute after they moved from behind the rock, a rocket fell at the same place they sought refuge. They realized they had escaped death by seconds. The shelling continued and her son's two friends were thrown to the ground.

Though badly wounded, her son tried to drag his friends away from the shelling. He carried them on his back, thinking they were still alive, but he soon discovered that they were lifeless.

The two boys and a young girl, who was walking nearby on her way to school, were buried together that same day. The girl was in her final school year and her mother had pleaded with her not to go to school that day.

A taxi driver tried to get the wounded boy, who had shrapnel in his legs and stomach, out of the village and back to Za’atri. But the car skidded out of control on the way and he was forced back into town.

“Then, the free army took my son to an area called Nawa, a Syrian city administratively belonging to the Daraa Governorate, where they stopped the bleeding,” she said. After that they brought him to Jordan.

There he was screened by the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) medical team and was then transported to the nearest hospital, located in Ramtha, where he received proper medical treatment.

The boy spent 20 days at Al Ramtha Hospital where he underwent two operations, one to remove shrapnel from his stomach and one to remove shrapnel from his knee.

Since July 2012, IOM has assisted 2,807 individuals with medical conditions requiring immediate referral or treatment at Za’atri Camp health clinics as part of the transportation assistance services. And since this April new arrivals at Za’atri camp have been immunized against measles and polio and provided Vitamin A supplement; measles vaccination is provided for those between 6 months of age and 30 years, polio vaccination for those 0-59 months and Vitamin A supplement is provided for infants between 6 and 59 months.

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Abeer Ali is a journalist with the Jordan Times and Veronica Costarelli is a reporting officer for IOM Amman.