Syria: What’s it like when your country has been at war as long as you’ve been alive?
11-year-old Syrian refugees Habiba and Atiya share their stories.
Habiba, 11, Azraq camp, Jordan: “I don’t know if I would ever want to go back to Syria.”
Habiba is the eldest of five siblings, meaning all she and her brothers and sisters have ever known is conflict. Habiba was born amidst shelling and gunfire. “There were no hospitals nearby, so we had to drive for 25 km whilst bombs exploded around us. It was a perilous journey. We didn’t know when we might be hit by a missile.”
When Habiba was almost two and a half years old, her family sought refuge in Jordan. The decision to leave their beloved homeland was difficult, but it was apparent they could no longer live in Syria. The family walked for hours in the wintery cold, eventually getting into a car that took them to the Jordanian border.
At Azraq camp, Habiba goes to school and has lots of friends. Her favourite subject is mathematics. She hopes to be a teacher one day. Habiba loves spending time with her grandfather and learning to cook kibbeh with her mother. She also visits the CARE community centre. Her favourite activity is drawing. “I like to draw and use my imagination. It takes me to another world,” she says.
Police officers patrol the camp and for now, surrounded by her loved ones and favourite activities, the camp has all that Habiba needs. “I feel safe here and I am happy. I only wish my father could get a job,” she says. “I don’t know if I would ever want to go back to Syria. My parents and grandfather talk about it every day. Syria is a green country, and we had a house there. My father and grandfather used to work, and we lived well. But my life is here.”
Atiya, 11, Lebanon: “I feel different from everyone else.”
Although she has lived in Lebanon from the age of three, Atiya has a strong sense of identity. “Even though we’ve been here for a long time, even though we have Lebanese friends and I go to school, we’re different. Our accent is different. I feel different from everyone else,” she says. “I’m not in my country and when you're somewhere else, you never feel really safe.”
Atiya barely remembers Syria, She knows her native country only through stories told by her parents. “I remember there were bombs, I remember the noises, the hisses and explosions. My parents say Syria was beautiful, that it was a good place to live. They tell me about the food, the shops, the parks and the walks we took. But I don't really know," she says.
She, her parents and four siblings live in Nabaa, a poor neighbourhood in the suburbs of Beirut. A few years ago, Atiya made a drawing of a house surrounded by a garden with a little girl in it. “I imagined Syria and our house. My parents say our home was burnt down and the neighbourhood completely destroyed,” she says. Her extended family is similarly torn apart, spread across Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Atiya dreams of peace being restored in Syria and of her family reuniting. “Sometimes people ask me why I am still here, why I don’t go home. I want to shout to them: 'Why don't you understand? My country was destroyed where do you want me to go? I have nowhere to go,'" she says.
The crisis in Lebanon has made it difficult for Atiya’s parents to meet the family’s basic needs. CARE assisted by providing her with a back-to-school kit at the beginning of the school year.
Find out more about the situation in Syria and what CARE is doing to help.
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