Twelve-year-old Ibrahim Hariri playing with his friends. Photo: F. Muath/Oxfam

Syria's refugees yearn for home

Most of the 2.5 million Syrian refugees that have found shelter in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq or Egypt were ordinary citizens like everybody else. They had a good and committed life, a livelihood or their own business; they were living with their families in safety and peace in their country.

However, 3 years later, many refugees’ hope of returning to Syria sometime soon is dwindling. They are living in limbo, battling each day to survive, with little idea of what the future holds. Today, most of them suffer the physical and mental consequences of having had to flee from their homes and leave some of their relatives behind or seeing them die. Moreover, most of the children living abroad don’t go to school.

The international community must urgently help end the crisis so refugees and displaced people inside Syria can return home and start to rebuild their lives.

These are some of their stories:

Um Majd: “No matter where you go – there’s no place like home.”

Photo of Um Majd hanging out the laundry in Zaatari refugee camp.

Um Majd fled Syria for her children’s sake. She feared they would all lose their lives if they stayed.

They currently live at Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, with her four children. “It’s like a slow death here. It’s like they’re keeping us in a bottle and every once in a while they let the air gets in just for a little while and then they close it back again.” Show more

Travelling with four children out of Syria in the middle of winter was a tough experience. She says: “We had to go through a lot of hard things. It was raining and was difficult on my children – they got sick on the way. Also, when we got here we didn’t have anything much – when you flee, you pack light. You take yourself, your children and the clothes you’re wearing.”

Every minute of every day she feels trapped and aches to return home.

“All of us get depressed – from the little kids to old men. My son here is almost seven and he told me he wants to go back to Syria because it would be better than staying here. I replied that if we go there we would die. He said: ‘that’s ok but let’s just go home’. Can you imagine that’s from a seven years old boy!”

Um Majd has a direct message to world leaders and communities around the world: “I would like to ask all the countries to support the Syrians, not financially but psychologically. To stand by the people and take their side and not to just stand by watching.”

Hamdo: “We never, never, never imagined something like this would happen.”

Photo of Hamdo showing a girl something in a textbook.

The 38-year-old father is struggling to come to terms with the trauma of leaving his country – and what he saw before he left his home in Gouta, near Damascus.

"When I left Syria I thought the situation would be over in six to seven months. I left Syria because of the children. They were suffering both physically and mentally – whenever they heard planes and trucks they were terrified and they would scream. When they arrived in Jordan they were still scared of loud noises – they thought they heard gunfire.” Show more

They now live in a small, damp and cramped family home in Baqa’a, outside Amman.

“Before the crisis, I lived comfortably and was happy with my life and work. I used to have a meat business with my six brothers. There is nothing more difficult than to be so close to your family – and then be separated from them.”

Hamdo has struggled to come to terms with the trauma of leaving his country but he’s found volunteering to help other Syrian refugees has helped him overcome his grief.

“I knew nobody when I first arrived in Jordan but Oxfam activities have opened doors for me – I’ve formed relationships. I now live in the same community as Jordanians and Syrians and the relationship between us has improved,” he says.

Ammar: “I miss the smell of Jasmine; I miss a beautiful morning … I miss my country.”

Photo: Ammar's daughter asks him to open a food package while her elder brother looks on.

Ammar, 37, his wife Um Saeed and their young family have been living in Jordan since January 2013 and for the past three months they have been living in a three-room home in Baqa’a camp, just outside Amman.

Ammar used to be a tailor back in Syria and says he had a good life: “I was a citizen like everybody else. I had a committed life, living with my family in safety and peace and we had a good life.“ Show more

But Ammar’s home here in Jordan suffers from damp and is extremely cold. “We can’t afford to live here, I can’t afford the rent fees which are 100 Jordanian Dinars a month (about $140). We have no money – not even enough to eat,” he says.

He suffers with depression and is psychologically scarred by his experiences of the conflict in Syria.“In the past year I have been very unwell. I have had three heart attacks due to the grief and sadness of the situation in Aleppo. I heard the news one evening and I cried all night in grief. The following day I had a heart attack. I have to take three types of pills which cost 70 Jordanian Dinars (about $100) a month,” he says.

He says: “Three years and we're always asked the same questions and we have the same answers. Let’s eventually end this, we are all humans, we are all brothers and humanity. I feel that no one is feeling what is happening to us … all I want is to be able to eat, drink and earn a living. I don’t want to be rich; I just want to be able to live.”

Oxfam has provided Ammar with hygiene and cleaning products for his family. These help to prevent disease outbreaks and enable Ammar to spend money on other essential items. Oxfam has also given Ammar cash to pay the rent for his family home ensuring he, his wife and 3 children have a roof over their heads.

Nada Al Musari: “My main challenge is to be able to take care of my family.”

Photo: Nada hugs her 25-year old son while both are laughing

Nada is a 54-year-old strong and independent mother that fled from Syria a year and a half ago and now lives in Jordan with her two sons Naser, who used to be a musician and now has a physical disability caused by a sniper attack, and Somar, and her husband, Abu Naser.

"I wish the international community would support the injured people because there are now huge numbers of them and not enough support for them." Show more

Many of her friends and family had been killed in Syria after there was a mortar bomb near to her home – her younger son Somar was the only survivor.

“When the explosion happened I just didn’t know what to do. I thought my son had died. I went to check and my friends and a cousin were dead but my son was alive – he was the only one that survived,” she says.

“I felt Jordan was the safest place for us, the safest place in the Middle East and also the medical side in Jordan is very good which is important for my disabled son.”

She volunteers as a community facilitator with Oxfam and now helps at cash, water filter and hygiene voucher distributions in Zarqaa. But her main concern is her family – and for people who have been injured during the crisis.

She says: “I hope to go back to Syria and I hope my son will work again. I wish the international community would support the injured people because there are now huge numbers of them and not enough support for them.”

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