In her own voice: A Syrian woman refugee’s story

Um Aisha (not her real name) did not want to be photographed, but allowed a CARE staff member in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, to photograph her hands

I go by the name of Um Aisha [name changed in order to protect her identity].

I am 32 years old, and I lived in Qusair in Syria. I came to Jordan because I have family members who live here.

I also have a brother who is in a Syrian prison now. He got married and became the father of a beautiful baby boy. He used to carry his child and run around filled with happiness.

We honestly believed that if you had nothing to do with the war, nothing would happen to you. But we were wrong.

My brother was captured and taken to prison when his son was only three months old.

My husband and I had property and some money but we had to leave everything behind. We decided to move to my home town in Mheen to start over. We built a house and bought land because we are farmers, this was our livelihood. Two years later, the conflict came to Mheen and we had to flee to another village. A few months later we were informed that it was safe to return to Qusair.

Although we found our house burnt to the ground and all our belongings stolen we thanked God for our safety. Since our land was still there we believed that everything else could be compensated.

My husband and I rebuilt everything from scratch and started over again. A few months later we heard about armed groups coming to our town. Everything was a mess; confusion about the situation was the only evident thing. No one knew which group was fighting for which purpose. We were lost and we no longer knew who was right and who was wrong.

I have one daughter, Fatima, but I had over four miscarriages; all in the third trimester of my pregnancy.

Once, while I was nine months pregnant I heard the sounds of the airplanes and the barrel bombs and I got so shocked that I had a miscarriage.

Once I gave birth to a baby boy but he only lived for a week because he needed to be in an incubator – and hospitals in war zones are not equipped with these things.

What can I tell about the suffering and hardship that we went through? It is inexplicable.

One day I was visiting my extended family who lived about ten metres away. The fighting became so intense that I didn’t dare going back to my house.

There was panic and confusion and while I fled with my daughter I got separated from my husband who ran in the opposite direction.

We travelled for five hours until we reached the desert. We stayed there for five months in the hope that our village would be safe again and we could return. But we lost hope eventually and went with the rest of the displaced people making their way to the Jordanian border.

I surrendered to the fact that I was amidst strangers, and whatever was going to happen to them, would happen to me and my daughter.

I had to run away from land mines and the air raids. And I can tell you that the air raids targeted civilians. In this conflict, civilians are hurt the most.

One day during our journey we rested in a small village. People were standing in line to buy bread at the local bakery. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was an air raid hitting the bakery.

In front of my eyes I saw over 25 people die, most of them children.

I saw a woman losing two of her children in that raid. She was just a few metres from where the bomb hit, and she was watching them die in shock, just standing there. I know that the mother will never return to her old self.

It is a sad reality: almost everyone I know has lost a child or a relative because of the war.

I lived through so many horrors. I’m 32 years old but my hair is white. Can you imagine walking around after an air raid and seeing human limbs on the ground?

Men at a young age that should be studying, getting married or raising their children were getting recruited or if not, getting decapitated and slaughtered like farm animals.

And some of these young men were your neighbours, friends’ sons, and relatives, and you know them and you know that they don’t deserve this.

My life in Syria was wonderful. I was living in a beautiful green village; I was living in freedom. We used to visit many of our relatives’ and friends’ homes to spend the evenings and have fun. But this freedom and safety was taken away from us in a very heinous manner.

Two months after I reached Jordan, someone showed me a picture of my husband on Facebook with a caption that declared his death.

Back in Syria my husband provided me with everything. Even doing house chores and simple knitting projects, he would ask me to stop working and jokingly pay me triple the price I would get if I sold the knitted items. He loved me and treated me with utmost respect. He never wanted me to go through any hardship in my life.

If only he could see me now. I cannot work and I don’t even have enough money to buy my daughter a cookie. I feel so helpless and heartbroken when she sees other children eating sweets and I don’t have a single lira to buy her anything. All I want now is to find work to be able to provide for my daughter.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.