No Lost Generation - Syria 12
A beautiful encounter between two inspiring young refugee women in Azraq camp restores hope for the future
15 March 2023 – Twelve years since the beginning of the conflict, Syria remains the world’s largest displacement crisis with more than 13 million Syrian women, men and children having fled the country or been displaced within its borders. The humanitarian situation in neighbouring host countries remains dire, with Türkiye hosting the largest refugee population in the world consisting of 3.7 million Syrians. Lebanon and Jordan are also among the countries with the highest number of refugees per capita globally. While humanitarian needs are at their highest in Syria and neighbouring countries today, funding for the Syria crisis response continues to dwindle down year after year. This is particularly considering the recent earthquakes that hit Syria and Turkey on 6 February 2023, only adding to the suffering and vulnerabilities of Syrian children and youth.
Last year, No Lost Generation (NLG) met with young Syrian refugees in the region who told us that despite all the hardships, they had not lost hope and were still dreaming big for their future. Many of them still wished to continue their education, attend university and find meaningful job opportunities which would allow them to transition into adulthood and support their families. They urged the international community not to forget about Syrian children and youth.
In December 2022, Sarah, a young Iraqi refugee residing in Amman and currently working as youth fellow at UNICEF MENARO, met with Fatima, a young Syrian refugee and youth representative of World Vision’s peace center located in Jordan’s Azraq camp. The two young women reflected on their displacement journeys as well as their aspirations for the future. On the occasion of the 12th year anniversary of the Syrian conflict, No Lost Generation (NLG) is sharing an inspiring video (ADD LINK) and personal reflection piece written by Sarah which translate the powerful connection between this encounter, while also highlighting the dreams that millions of young refugees displaced in the region still hold dear to their hearts after many years of conflict.
My encounter with Fatima in Azraq camp
By Sarah Al Subayai – youth fellow at UNICEF MENARO
On 12 December 2022, I travelled from Amman to Azraq camp, it was my very first time visiting a refugee camp. My visit was planned together with World Vision and UNICEF as part of the No Lost Generation initiative which highlights the voices of refugee youths such as myself.
When I first arrived, I was taken aback as the camp is located in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by desert land.
As we got closer, I noticed that the camp consisted of a number of villages made of caravans, each with a specific number assigned to it. There were also supermarkets and small; shops scattered around the camp. The streets were also busy with bicycles and small motorised buggies, which are the main modes of transportation there.
As I looked around, I also noticed the water tanks and electric poles that are connected to solar panels on the outskirts of the camp. I was relieved to see that residents of the camp could access water and electricity. I also saw learning centres for little kids and schools with painted walls showcasing flowers and trees. I honestly expected the camp to be somewhat lifeless in the middle of this desert, but I was happy to see that there was life on its streets, with children playing, adults working, and families visiting loved ones.
When we arrived to World Vision’s Peace Center, I met Fatima, a young Syrian refugee residing with her family in the camp. She is one of the most passionate people I have ever met! She is a volunteer ambassador for youth in the camp, where she organizes a wide range of initiatives for Syrian youths. We sat down together and spoke about our journey as refugees, me coming from Iraq, and herself from Syria. We also discussed our future aspirations as young educated women. She told me that she wanted to finish high school and apply for a scholarship to pursue media studies at university. Her dream is to make sure creative, useful and factual information can be disseminated to youth through media channels.
Fatima is 17 years old, and I am 21. It's not that big of a gap, and we got along pretty quickly like friends who have known each other for a long time... Before I met Fatima, I also met the children studying at World Vision’s pre-primary school. I was thrilled to interact with them and play with them. Meeting children always reminds me of the resilience of refugees and young children in particular, who still manage to see the fun in things, no matter what life throws at them.
When I asked Fatima what kind of challenges she faces in the camp, she mentioned that
she would love to continue her education by being admitted to university. But unfortunately, no universities are available inside the camp, and she would need to get a scholarship to be able to attend university in Amman.
I immediately empathized with her, because as a young Iraqi refugee residing in Amman, I am also searching for a scholarship to continue my education. I myself am interested in pursuing social studies at university, and I also really love the English language. I immediately thought that I would love to collaborate with Fatima in the future to come up with helpful initiatives for young refugees such as ourselves, and support them through their journey.
As refugees moving to a new country, we often need the support of peers to navigate the challenges of displacement. When I first started school in Amman, I wasn’t performing well academically and was also struggling socially. I didn’t speak the Jordanian dialect and my schoolmates couldn’t understand most of the words that I was saying either because I spoke the Iraqi dialect. I was really shy and was struggling with low self-esteem.
After two years, I started gaining confidence again and I was doing really well at school because I had good friends from different nationalities including refugees and asylum seekers like me who encouraged me to do well and keep improving. I was also lucky to have really kind teachers that gave me support when I needed it. After graduating from high school, I stayed at home for a whole year as my educational attainment was not enough to apply to university, let alone the costs it would entail to pursue an advanced education, which my family could not afford.
After that, I found a technical skills education program and worked many jobs that had nothing to do with my passions and aspirations, however I was still trying to learn new skills and develop myself while also supporting my family. After that, I was lucky to be selected as an intern for UNICEF MENAR’s fellow program in Amman, which has allowed me to develop my writing and communications skills, while also delving into the social issues of refugees in Jordan and the region. My visit to Azraq camp was a new and emotional experience for me. Certainly Fatima and I lived very different experiences as young refugee women. Nevertheless, I still felt a very strong bond with her, especially after she shared her story with me and I realized that we both were determined to achieve our dreams and continue our education. I think I saw myself in her and all the young people residing in the camp who aspire for a better tomorrow. It was an experience worth repeating a hundred times and I hope I will return to visit again soon.