Friday, August 30, 2013

Refugee fathers hope for the future amidst war in Syria

By Naomi Steer, National Director, Australia for UNHCR

The suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria last week has taken the ongoing crisis to a new level. The conflict has already seen one million Syrian children become refugees, with the total number of refugees now close to two million. Such figures are overwhelming, and I believe it is important to remember that these millions of refugees are real people, each with their own story to share.

When I write about refugees it is often to highlight the challenges that refugee women and children face. This in part reflects the fact they make up 80 percent of the refugee population, and are often the most vulnerable in conflict situations.

But in saying this, there is no less concern for the millions of men who alone or together with their families are also forced from their homes, often into dangerous and uncertain futures.
On my recent mission to Jordan I met and interviewed Syrian refugees, including a number of men – fathers, husbands and sons – about their experiences as refugees.   

I found young dad, Mohamad, surrounded by young kids playing soccer on a rocky field. He and his wife, Suzanne, and young family had arrived in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan almost 12 months before fleeing the besieged city of Dara in southern Syria.

At home in his village while his wife taught at the local school he ran the local soccer competition. His team Al Majed had won several premierships, and although he joked his glory days as a forward were behind him he said he now really enjoyed coaching.

While war escalates across the border in Syria with recent suspected chemical weapons use, playing soccer is an important social outlet for refugee children at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

Playing soccer is an important social outlet for refugee children at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.