Friendship in the face of war

Rania, 36, Hana, 32, and Ghosoun, 41, used to meet every day back in Homs in Syria to gossip about the things they wanted to buy, what they would wear for a party and upcoming weddings. Now their daily conversations revolve around sharing news of the latest casualties of loved ones back in Syria and how to manage the myriad of problems they face as refugees in Jordan.

When war broke in Syria nearly five years ago, the friends, even though they all lived in the same area, were quickly separated from each other by blockades and barriers that appeared across the city. As the bombing and fighting increased, the three women were displaced across Syria in different directions and lost contact. One by one, starting with Ghosoun, they decided to make their way across the border into Jordan. As they did so they all found temporary refuge in a school in the capital, Amman, that the landlord had given to Syrian refugees as accommodation. Here, by chance and fate, the friends found each other again.

Although they are living next door to Syria, their lives in Jordan could not be more different. Their husbands, who worked as construction workers and a butcher back in Syria are now unemployed with nothing to do as they don’t have the right as refugees to work in the country. This leaves them with so much time on their hands to think about the myriad of pressures and stresses facing them. Instead of work they spend most of their time praying at the mosque or shopping for the home. Some, like Hana’s husband, do work informally; risking the penalties if caught by the authorities.

The women are also unable to help out financially. They now spend most of their time together watching the news for information from inside Syria – something they also never did before the war.

“Now we are always watching the news to see if it gets better and we can go back. We hope and pray it will get better, but then we see the news and it is full of blood and death,” says Hana.

Like the majority of Syrian refugees in the region, the women and their families decided to try to make a life in the city – much more similar to their lives in Homs – than the refugee camps. But urban living poses its own and very real daily challenges. The biggest one is paying the rent on their apartments without being able to earn an income to do so.

Despite these difficulties none of the women want to move again.

“The journey was so bad from Syria to here I could not repeat it again,” says Hana. “We were sleeping outside in the dirt and as we were walking we saw the dead in front of us. You pass bodies and people killing each other in front of you because they want water and there is no water.” she adds.

They are all still traumatised by the things they saw on this journey and it has taken a long time for them to feel safe again.

As Ghosoun says; “when we first got to Jordan and heard airplanes or fireworks from parties we were screaming and scared.”

Rania, who has recently been assessed to receive CARE’s emergency cash assistance of approximately US$ 183 ($262 CAD), has participated in different psychosocial and recreational activities held at CARE’s safe spaces in Amman, reminisces from time to time with her friends about their lives before the fighting started. But when they do, it seems like a distant dream.

“Our lives have changed 100 per cent,” says Rania, “we had a home and a car and my husband was working. Here in Jordan we have nothing at all,” she adds. “I miss the subjects we talked about before. Now we talk about ‘you know who died/was injured last week?”

Learn how CARE is responding to the crisis in Syria.