Life inside the refugee camp

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 14:59

Today it is hot and the sun burns down on the camp. Men and women sit on the floor, squeezing into the small piece of shade cast by their tent; some watch children play in the gravel, some simply stare out across the plain of the Jordanian desert.

Hundreds of refugees wait to register at the entrance to Zaatari Refugee Camp. Women hold small children in their arms, some carry suitcases and small bags, others have come with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Driving around the perimeter of the camp offers a glimpse into what life is like here – the world these new arrivals are entering into. 

There is so little to do here that many pass the time by talking. They tell each other their stories – of what life was like in their town or village under the conflict, of the moment they decided to leave, of loved ones they left behind. Many describe lives under fire; weeks spent hiding in shelters or basements, of bombings and air strikes on their homes and villages, of houses burned, of fleeing under gun fire.

A young man tries to explain what life was like in Syria before he left. He stops midway and shows me instead with a video on his phone. It is a scene of chaos – shooting, shouting and screaming. A burned body is covered and a man is rushed into an ambulance.  His wife tells him to put it away, that no good can come from remembering what happened.

Others busy themselves with daily tasks; carrying buckets of water back and forth from the large tanks dotted around the camp, sweeping out the dust from their tents, or pinning out the few clothes they have on the strings which snake between the thousands of tents and prefabricated units.

The majority of people I speak to feel safer here, but the sound of bombing over the border is a reminder of the ongoing destruction of their country, a sign that this tented city could be their home for weeks, months, or even years to come.

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