“I still remember the first day that I slept in the camp. I didn’t eat for two days just to forget what I’m facing,” Nada murmured as she recounted her time living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp. “It is not alive.” Nada’s journey from Syria to CRP is harrowing, but not unordinary for someone displaced by the Syrian Civil War.
In 2011, Nada’s Syrian hometown became plagued with violence. “When the revolution started and the people came against Assad, they started kidnapping girls, raping them, and killing them,” she recalled. “In any moment, you can expect death because of the bombing or because the Syrian army comes to the houses one by one to take the men and take them to the prison. Even my kids, they cannot play outside or anything because a bomb could come and kill them. It was so hard to live with this fear, and there was no safety at all.” The risk of remaining in Syria quickly became too high for Nada and her family to bear.
Nada wanted to leave Syria as quickly as possible; but without visas she and her family were unable to go through the airport. “Instead we went through seven cities to get to Jordan,” Nada emphasized. Traveling in the cities was treacherous, and the police were present at every corner. “In every end of the street, there is a police point and they take the men. When we ask where they going to take them they say ‘don’t ask about him.’ Many men from Syrian families are lost. No one knows anything about them. They are either dead or in prison waiting for death.”
The danger only intensified after Nada and her family left the southernmost of the seven Syrian cities. “We were walking for an hour and a half at night between the boundaries between Syria and Jordan. There was no light, no person, it was so dark, with so much fear.” The event remains a trauma for Nada, her husband, and her children.
Nada’s perilous walk ended at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in the northern region of Jordan. Established in 2012, the Zaatari Camp now holds close to 80,000 Syrian refugees. Living conditions were crowded and chaotic. “In the Zaatari camp, if someone is sick everyone else is sick. We are crying all day and all night, we cannot forget what happened to us in Syria. We cannot live with all the dirt that was in the camp,” Nada sighed.
The Zaatari Camp also failed to provide the kind of safety that Nada and her family craved. “My kids felt fear from any airplane that comes around the camp. In the day there were at least four airplanes flying around the camp. When my kids hear the airplane they come to me and hug me and ask ‘who is the person who is flying? Does he want to kill us?’ I lied to them and said ‘no, he is coming to give you toys, and so on,’” Nada confessed. “So many people, they want to help us and they give us money. I told them I don’t need any money. Just give me toys or something to make my kids not fear from the airplanes that they see in Syria.”
Once admitted to camps like Zaatari, refugees are not allowed to exit because they lack the official paperwork to move elsewhere. Three long months of entrapment in Zaatari convinced Nada that the terrible conditions were putting her family’s survival at risk, so she took her family and fled, illegally. “When I ran from the camp, I went to the police and told them that I could not live in the camp because it was the worst nightmare. It was snowing and so cold there. They felt so pathetic about me that they allowed me to leave the camp and come to Amman.”
Settling into life in Amman has not been easy, but Nada’s husband has been able to find a low-paying job to procure basic necessities for the family. Nada herself continues to devote her attention to her children. “I try to work on the kids’ psychological help and to help them not to fear from the airplane,” Nada revealed as her eyes glassed over. “I tell them that all the people love them and that we are so far from Syria and all of the bad things that happen to people there.”
Nada and her kids now attend activities at CRP, where they all learn new skills and make friends. Nada also volunteers in CRP’s Daycare, where she assists other women in taking care of children and planning activities for them. CRP’s programs aim to relieve trauma in a variety of ways, depending on each person’s desires and needs.
Though processing past trauma continues to be difficult, Nada finds hope in her children’s futures. “I’m looking for a school where they can learn everything,” she divulged excitedly. “I don’t think that I will return to Syria again. In the future I would like to go with my family to Canada or England. Since I was young I always loved Queen Elizabeth. Maybe in England we can find a good life for me and my kids.”
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