Treasures from Syria
A decade after fleeing to Jordan, Eman, Khloud and Huda still hold onto the few items they brought from Syria
“I feel joy when I hold this book. It reminds me of so much. I still hear the voices of my students asking questions.”
Back in Syria Eman was a high school Arabic teacher. She specialized in teaching the older students and helping them to pass their final exams. “The school was my second family. I felt like a supplementary mother to the girls I taught.”
When the conflict began, however, Eman was forced to give up her profession and flee her home in Homs to Jordan. Among the few things she brought were her school textbooks.
“Even when I arrived in Jordan, I remained in contact with some of my students through Facebook. It was one of the saddest days when I heard the school had been destroyed. I don’t think anything will beat the memories we created there.”
Eman still vividly remembers the journey she, her children and her elderly parents undertook to Jordan. Her husband had passed away from natural causes prior to the conflict and Eman had subsequently assumed responsibility for her whole family. “I felt like a mother hen, my children under one wing and my parents under the other. My father at the time was very sick, he was on crutches, so it was difficult for him to walk to the border. But when we left home, we had to walk far until we found a car which could take us to the border.”
After entering Jordan, Eman immediately sought healthcare for her parents. Her mother had fallen sick along the journey and was suffering from heart issues. Although Eman was happy to have reached safety, she recalls how her mind was full of concerns about their future life. How she would look after her parents and ensure her children continued their education.
Eman credits the fact that Syrian refugees have been included within Jordanian society as one of the main reasons behind where she is today. The psychological trauma her family faced while fleeing lingered for a long time after their arrival, but the fact that her children could enroll in the local school helped a lot. “The only thing I wish was different is that I would have the possibility to work as a teacher. I feel that something is missing in my life since I stopped working.”
“I fled with nine children. Pregnant and by myself. It was the middle of winter when we were crossing the border. I wrapped everyone up in the same blanket so we could keep warm.”
Khloud and her children fled their home in Daraa, Syria in 2013. Her husband had been detained during the initial protests and when the conflict started to escalate, she feared for her family’s safety. At seven months pregnant, the journey to Jordan was far from easy. Khloud recalls how at one point she thought she had lost one of her sons amid all the people fleeing but eventually they reached safety.
Alongside one bag of clothes, Khloud barely brought any of her belongings as they thought their stay in Jordan would just be temporary. The blanket had been a gift from her husband after one of his work trips to Kuwait and although Khloud says it was a last-minute decision to bring it along with them, it served them well amid the severe winter. “I think it’s around 20 years old now. There are a couple of stains which I know are from that night at the border. I’ve tried everything but I can’t get them out,” she says.
Nine years later, however, life has improved significantly. Khloud now lives in Jordan’s capital Amman, and three of her oldest daughters are married and living with their own families nearby.
Sadly, after her husband’s arrest, they were barely in contact until she received news that he had died from his injuries in 2019.
“As a single mother, I feel so much responsibility. The education of my eldest children was interrupted, they dropped out of school early. I don’t want that to happen to the youngest ones.”
“My oldest child was 15 and the youngest 8 when we left Syria. We had to walk around 5km to the border. The only thing I brought with me was a bottle of water.”
Huda and her four children fled their home in Daraa, Syria in November 2012. Her husband had died two months earlier during the conflict and their house burned down after being caught in the crossfire. Huda remembers how her primary concern was finding safety for her children, and that despite all the difficulties they have since faced in Jordan, she is still extremely thankful for the safety Jordan has provided her and her family.
Like many Syrians who fled in 2012, Huda says how she thought they would just be in Jordan for a short amount of time and that as a result they didn’t bring any of their belongings with them, just the clothes on their backs. The one thing Huda remembers carrying is her bottle of water.
“The water in Syria tastes different. It doesn’t need to be filtered. Especially because I suffer from kidney issues, having a regular flow of water is extremely important for me. It sounds trivial but often I still think of that bottle of water, I ended up leaving it at the border crossing, but Jordanian water is not the same.”
Since arriving to Jordan, Huda has also struggled with her health and has had multiple operations for her kidneys and gallbladder. As a result, the family has been dependent on UNHCR cash assistance. Every month they receive 110 JOD which helps them to pay their rent. “Without this we would be on the street.”