Something to remind a family of home

Published: 11 March 2014 14:06 CET

Penny Sims/British Red Cross

In the courtyard outside the flat there are three cages holding multi-coloured canaries. They are well cared for, with cages swaddled in old t-shirts to protect the birds from the chill.

The family are farmers and like to have a little something of nature near to them, even in this urban environment, to remind them of home.

Altogether, there are 14 people living in this one flat: Razala, 66 and Mustapha, 76, plus their son, their widowed daughter-in-law and ten grandchildren. Their other son was killed in the conflict. The family lived in Dera’a, close to the border.

“Every day was the worst – there were bombings. Everything is damaged. It has been bad there for a year. There are hardly any houses left; everything is damaged or burnt. We didn’t have anything left,” Mustapha says. “We left one morning and walked until night. We finally crossed the border under cover of darkness. We couldn’t find a car so we walked. Anything that moves is shot.”

Somebody tried to shoot at them when they crossed the border. “We were scared then, so we crossed in a hurry before anyone could kill us. Whenever we heard something we would hide behind rocks or anything we could find. We walked 5km in the dark with the children. We took nothing with us, because we had to manage the children and get them over the border.”

The family worries about how they will survive in Jordan – especially considering Mustapha’s and Razala’s ages, and the number of grandchildren they have to support. The children are being helped by the Jordan National Red Crescent Society psychosocial centre, and the family have been given some coupons for bread. However, they are wary about asking for more help and are still on a waiting list to register with the UNHCR, which takes time.

Years of conflict have also left them concerned about having the right paperwork and made them naturally cautious. Coming from a farming life, Mustapha is philosophical about the situation: “We were always a poor family. If there is work, we eat. If not, we don’t,” he says. “We want to thank the Jordanian people. And we hope one day to go back to Syria. I want the children to be able to return to study – studying is very important and I hope they will be good.”