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< Syria Bearing Witness Trips

Syria: Trip Report: Part II


The Refugees’ Plight

Most of the refugees had seen their homes destroyed, often by heavy bombing by Syrian government helicopters and war planes, and they described efforts by government forces to deliberately starve civilian noncombatants into submission. In other words, killing civilians is not a regrettable byproduct of conflict; it is the central point. As one man from Ghouta told us as he served us tea in his prefabricated metal container home in Zaatari, “Assad doesn’t want any Sunni Muslims, only Shiites.”

According to relief officials we spoke to, opposition groups have also certainly committed atrocities, especially against Alawite supporters of Assad, and they have in some cases obstructed the delivery of humanitarian supplies and food. But human rights reporting clearly indicates that the preponderance of atrocities comes from the government side.

The Al Hadalat border crossing was one of the most moving scenes I have ever witnessed. Some 100 refugees, predominantly children accompanying their mothers and fathers, walked across a kind of no-man’s-land separating Syria and Jordan by several kilometers. Most had arrived at the Syrian side by paying smugglers or other intermediaries hundreds of dollars to help them avoid dangerous checkpoints and attacks.

Most of the refugees had seen their homes destroyed, often by heavy bombing by the Syrian government.

Carrying few belongings other than bags of clothes, the refugees scrambled over a 10-foot-high sand berm on the Jordanian side, where they were met by border guards handing out blankets, bottles of water and juice, and small snacks.

As he waited with his wife and children to board a truck to take him to a transit center, one man named Amir told us there is no food, water, or work for those left behind and that most of his fellow citizens would come across the border if they could afford it. “Syria—there is no hope,” he told me. “Syria will be destroyed more and more.”

Next: An Uneasy Welcome