“We live for a lack of dying”
These were the parting words of Rima, a Syrian refugee, as I stood up to leave. She’s living in a makeshift camp not far from the Syrian border in Jordan with her husband, nine children and several other refugee families. They live close to a Jordanian farm where her husband can earn up to $11 USD per day working but now, in winter, there is no work.
Rima grew up in Hama, Syria a town 46 KM north of Homs. When asked about what she remembers of her home, her face lights up. She says that everything was beautiful, even the air, and it was really safe – you could walk anywhere and no one would ask you where you were going.
Rima married her husband when she was 25, after turning down many other men. She had decided to stay single and live with her parents, but he changed her mind and she still smiles when she talks about him. Together in Syria they had a farm, growing onions and barley and many other vegetable crops, in addition to their 40 cattle. The cows were mostly dairy and they sold some of the calves. She says that selling the calves each year would support them for at least three or four months. Now, she says, they have nothing. She recently received news from Syria that their house has been destroyed.
When the conflict in Syria started, her husband left with their oldest daughters. They had heard reports of girls being raped and men being killed, so they took the difficult decision to separate the family. Her husband left Rima and the younger children behind and went to Jordan. She stayed for a year before leaving herself. I asked what caused her to make the final decision to evacuate. “An 18 year old girl in the neighbourhood was shot in the chest while simply walking down the street,” she says “I saw her die.” Another woman sitting in the room where Rima and I are talking speaks up: “that girl was my niece.”
Rima also speaks of air strikes, houses being shot at random and a general insecurity, particularly after dark. She knew it was time to leave. They left everything behind, leaving with only the clothes on their backs. Through a transportation network of trucks and cars, she made it to the Jordanian border. But at the border she had to walk. One of her daughters is in a wheelchair and she had to push her the rest of the way. As she talks, Rima removes her daughter’s socks to show the black spots of frost bite on her feet.
Her family is now scattered. Her parents are still in Syria though she hasn’t spoken to her mother in three years; her father stated that he would rather die in his house than leave Syria. She said that she knows her family moves around depending on where the conflict is so she isn’t sure where they are now. Rima’s 11 siblings have also separated and are in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Syria.
Rima – and the thousands like her – are why War Child is working in Jordan. We are currently providing psychosocial support, conflict management training, legal rights awareness and child care support for both Syrian refugee women and vulnerable Jordanian women. We urgently need to expand our programming, however, as more refugees are arriving every day and every family has a story as harrowing as Rima’s. We will only be able to meet their needs with your support.
For now Rima holds onto the hope that one day she and her children will be able to return home.
“I want to die there and be buried in Syria,” she says. “I wish for my children happiness and that things get better in Syria so they can go back there and have families and a house.” I tell her I have to leave to head back to Canada. She offers a pale smile. “Say hi to all the Canadians” she says, “Please tell them we are suffering. We are nowhere. We live for a lack of dying.”